Expats in China love their Roundabout charity shops

Published:  9 Apr at 6 PM
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Charity shops are favourites in the West, so it’s no surprise they’ve made their way to China along with expats from across the Western world.

Roundabout was China’s very first charity store when it opened 10 years ago with the intent of raising money for vulnerable social groups in Beijing. Groups helped included children with physical challenges or serious illnesses, orphans, the elderly, women, earthquake victims and more. The store also provided a meeting place for expats who wanted to help and didn’t know how to go about giving their time and expertise. Basically, Roundabout’s ethos was centred on the eco-conscious lifestyle embodied in the three R’s – reuse, recycle and reduce.

Nowadays, the store and its free pick-up services, thrift shop, boutiques and even a warehouse all have an army of volunteers making sure everything works well, led by Charlotte Beckett, a determined expat volunteer director who makes sure the city’s residents don’t fall behind the recycle, reuse and re-purposing trend. At the end of last Month, another charity boutique opened under Roundabout’s umbrella, crammed with luxury handbags, designer dresses, vintage jewellery and haute couture goodies, all donated by expats and residents convinced that recycling rather than dumping is the way forward to generate revenue to help those in need. Roundabout’s charity shops aren’t just about donating no longer needed luxuries to generate funds to help the have-nots, as they’re also meeting places for recently-arrived expats overwhelmed by new experiences and needing a bridge into their new society.

The charity has developed hugely since its first director, Briton Leslie Simpson, created her original business plan of a central store able to accept donations, sort them and either get them to any charity in need or sell them on, using the money raised to help sick children needing medical help. Once the word got round, truckloads of goods came in and were sorted and sent out, with some going to earthquake-hit Qinghai, more to Yunnan’s impoverished mountain villages and even to Nepal after the mega-earthquake. In 2013, Leslie received the Order of the British Empire (OBE),for her work in philanthropy and charity.

Although she and her family are no longer in China, Roundabout’s amazing work continues, helped along by a good number of Chinese residents, businesses and institutions as well as ever–increasing numbers of expat volunteers, social groups, embassies and schools. According to its present director, Roundabout’s a work of love and dedication, with everyone pulling together to realise their goal.
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