Ho ho ho, Christmas time has come around faster than we thought! And although Christmas is supposed to put us all in a peaceful, quiet and contemplative mood, we also know how stressful the time just before Christmas can be. Especially when it comes to buying presents, which always turns out a lot more chaotic than planned…
Unless, of course, you’re different from us. Perhaps you’re the kind of person who can’t get enough of coming up with unusual gift ideas and picturing the happy faces of your friends and family members! Then let us use your talent to do even more good this Christmas. In cooperation with the initiative “Züri schenkt”, this year we want to bring the Christmas spirit to people who don’t it that easy.
Sounds good? It is! That’s why we’ve met with the project’s co-leader, Florin Hasler, for an interview so that he could tell us in detail what exactly is initiative is all about
Valeriana: Florin, would you briefly tell us how your initiative came about?
Florin: The prototype of “Züri schenkt” was launched in 2016, at the peak of the refugee crisis. Back then, the Halle 9 building in Oerlikon, Zurich was used as a transit centre for housing refugees. Julius and Janina, who would later become the founders of “Züri schenkt”, lived in the same area at the time and would often pass by. At some point in the run-up to Christmas, they had the idea to bring a little bit of joy to people who were going through a difficult time during the holiday period.
It all started when they mobilised their acquaintances and then their acquaintances’ acquaintances to donate gifts. They first collected the gifts in their own homes and then delivered them to Halle 9 by hand. That was the first year. The next year, Alex and Yagmur joined them. They further expanded the project and its network. That is also how the partnership with AOZ (Asyl Organisation Zürich) came into being. Since then, the campaign has existed roughly in the same form as it does now.
Everyone can take part. Just gift-wrap a hat, scarf and gloves — and toys for children — add a greeting card and by 19 December drop everything off at one of our partners, like Valeriana for example.
Last year, we also started accepting monetary donations, since the pandemic had made it more difficult to buy and hand over gifts in person. We have now simplified the donation process and created a donation form. We have been pleasantly surprised by how many donations have already come in.
Valeriana: How can one donate?
Florin: You can donate the equivalent amount of a gift. 30 francs for men’s/women’s gifts and 50 francs for children’s gifts. We then buy the gifts, wrap them up and bring them to the asylum centres.
Valeriana: Which asylum centres do the gifts go to?
Florin: Participating asylum centres are located within the Zurich area and are supported by the AOZ. These include transit centres as well as federal asylum centres. Since last year, ORS centres have also been participating. In total, it’s nine in the canton of Zurich.
Valeriana: How has the response from the refugees been?
Florin: The feedback that we have received from the asylum centres has always been very positive. Everyone is very happy about the gifts. We don’t have direct contact with the refugees themselves. We bring the gifts to the asylum centres and are in contact with the managers and caretakers who receive and distribute the gifts.
Valeriana: How successful has your initiative been in the past couple of years?
Florin: In 2017, we were flooded with gifts. In 2019, it was a little less compared to previous years. Luckily, we’ve got a little bit of wiggle room thanks to our sponsors that are supporting us with chocolate and toiletries. In general, we usually have too few gifts for men, because people prefer to bring gifts for women and children.
Valeriana: What happens when you collect more than 1,000 gifts? Do you work with other similar initiatives?
Florin: The one year where we did end up receiving more gifts than we needed, we spent the rest of the distribution day trying to find a meaningful place for them. We got in touch with orphanages, but most of them had already been taken care of by then. Fortunately, we were able to cooperate with the Icontro aid organisation, which organises the food bank at Kosmos nearby. We were able to take all the leftover presents there. And this year we will again bring all the leftover presents to them if we collect over 1,000.
Valeriana: What do you wish for this year’s campaign?
Florin: Our initiative is about social cohesion and welcoming everyone who has come to Switzerland. We are committed to solidarity and hope that we can convey our message again this year. “Züri schenkt” isn’t primarily about anything material. The gifts are material, of course, but they are deliberately things that most people don’t have and that are actually going to prove useful in their everyday lives. Gift selection takes place in consultation with the AOZ. This year is special in that our initiative is also taking place in other cities. Last year, we ran the project on a smaller scale, as a kind of pilot project, in Lucerne, Bern, Geneva and Lugano. Now, we’re hoping that it’s going to become a nationwide success. The campaign is also taking place in Liechtenstein for the first time, our first international expansion if you like — we’re really happy about that.
Would you like to support the campaign? You can find more information about what gifts are needed and how to best wrap them here.