‘Global’ stores aid refugees overseas

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Sara Van Cleve
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A new coffee shop in Arvada and a thrift shop in Westminster are offering fresh brews and deals for locals, but they’re providing much more for people thousands of miles away.

Global Refuge International, a nonprofit that provides emergency lifelines to displaced people, opened Global Thrift, 9110 W. 88th Ave. in Westminster, in November and is headquartered on the second floor at Global Goods and Coffee Shop, 5613 Olde Wadsworth Blvd. in Arvada, in May.

Both locations are operated by volunteers so the majority of the profit goes directly to Global Refuge International.

“We started out supporting work with refugees in Burma, with the civil war going on,” said Jaden McNeely, of Global Refuge International. “We were providing medicine, taking supplies, and supporting different small groups and giving them resources. At some point we decided this is something we need to do officially.”

Global Refuge International began its work in 2001 and was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 2005.

Since its founding, the organization has done work in Burma, Congo, Indonesia, Uganda, Syria and Lebanon.

“Since then, our focus has always been on displaced people, people who were forced out of their homes because of conflict or disaster, natural or manmade,” McNeely, son of Global Refuge International founder Brian McNeely, said. “We target that population because we see them as the most vulnerable. When you’re forced out of your home, you have nothing. Especially where people have been displaced for a long amount of time, they struggle to have a normal life. They fight hard to have it though.”

McNeely described Global Refuge International as a holistic health organization that focuses on health and sanitation in countries with displaced populations.

Global Refuge International is currently doing work in Uganda, battling malaria and water sanitation, and supplying help in Syria and Lebanon during the current war.

With the economic downturn, McNeely said Global Refuge International, like many organizations, was having trouble expanding its work .

“We wanted to find a way (to raise money) that didn’t ask people to go above and beyond, but that works into their normal spending,” he said.

Through that desire, the thrift store and coffee shop were born. The family has lived in Colorado quite a while and so brought their work here, and choose the thrift store location based on a need they saw in the area.

The thrift store is stocked with donated items, which also helps Global Refuge International direct profits to work across the globe.

Global Goods and Coffee Shop offers handcrafted coffee from The Brewing Market in Boulder, tea and fresh-baked pastries at a price cheaper than many other coffee shops. The shop also sells items made by Ugandans.

“The goods are made in northern Uganda,” McNeely said. “We pay the people directly, and the goods are all made by people we are helping with our projects. It helps sustain them and then, in a way, they are generating money for their own projects. It’s really about self-empowerment.”

The main initiative in Uganda that both the coffee shop and thrift store support is the battle against malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease that is the No. 1 killer in Uganda.

Global Refuge International focuses on training local people to provide aid, McNeely said.

“For our malaria initiative, we train medics who lived in the village, and they go back and live life,” he said. “We train them to test and treat people, and train them on every other aspect of malaria. We fund the medics themselves, provide all of the drugs and treatment kits in one inclusive thing.”

To test and treat a person showing symptoms of malaria costs about $1 per person.

The Ugandan population is very young, with the average age being 15, according to Children of the Nations, and children 5 and under are most at risk of dying from malaria, he said.

“A child could be running and playing soccer in a field, and 24 hours be dead,” McNeely said. “In the worst case — and going untreated — an adult could die in three or four days.”

Medics originally started by treating one village, which averaged 800 to 1,200 people; now, some medics are treating as many as 2,000 people, McNeely said.

“People come from 40 miles away by bicycle and say, ‘I have malaria and need help, and heard you were here,’” he said.

By purchasing a cup of coffee and a pastry, or a few items from the thrift store, people can provide several test and treatment kits, McNeely said.

Global Refuge International is also accepting volunteer applications for four-hour shifts at either the coffee shop or thrift store. For information about how to volunteer or about Global Refuge International, go online to www.GlobalRefuge.org.

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