Santa Shoebox has been a humbling experience …

I have taken part and prepared boxes for the last 3 or 4 years.  Each year a pick the amount of boxes I think I can afford, then choose children’s names, and build boxes.

Every year realising that I have totally blown the budget that I started with.

This year I needed to be a bit stricter, as my visa was at that point where the ring of “decline” was a reality every time I handed it over.

That besides, I decided this year as I had a bit more of a flexible work day, I would volunteer at one of the Santa Shoebox drop off points.  Seemed like a good idea.

I went along to the information day and was impressed at how well everything seemed to be organised.

I went along to the “drop off day” and helped sort boxes.  For 12 hours.

I did enjoy it.  Each box is opened.  Each box is checked to see that all the elements are included, and there are no items that might be dangerous, hazardous or which might melt or leak and destroy the contents of the box before a child could open it.

Every one at the Santa Shoebox Project volunteers is friendly, agreeable, and even when faced with a mountain of boxes remains upbeat and excited even after 8 hours of opening and checking boxes.

The entire experience made me happy at times (when I saw wonderful things people had included), sad sometimes (that some boxes were woefully short of what was needed) – but I generally felt quite buoyed by the entire experience.

No matter what the issue was with a box, no one forgot that the box has been packed specially by someone, specially for a child – and every box was appreciated, and every box was treated like it was the best box they had ever seen!!

Each box is checked and then repacked and sealed with an elastic, and the box is then sorted into it’s assigned area – which tells the packers where to pack it and for which center it is destined.

Besides the generosity that everyone has shown in packing and preparing the boxes for the + 100 000 children who receive these, individuals and companies donated numerous “top up” items, sometimes you need to add something to a box

There was a special “ER” table you could go to, and find a product to add, and add it to the box, so that when you closed it, you knew that it had everything it needed.

The amount of boxes donated by the generous and kind-hearted public was quite unbelievable.

The amount of work that goes on tirelessly behind the scenes by Santa Shoebox Volunteers is beyond belief. People just get stuck in, and do far more than you realise when you sit on this side of the project – you pick a child, make a box, drop it off – and then congratulate yourself on a job well done.

But the real work takes place behind the scenes, after the boxes are dropped off.  The planning and work that goes into this Project boggles the mind.

Ensuring that every child receives a box – often when the centres have had new children join them, and the co-ordinators find this out a few days before the Celebration Days is another act of kindness, and generosity that often goes unsung.

If you haven’t packed a box this year – or even if you have – but have any capacity to supply anything – tennis balls make great gifts for slightly older kids, toy cars, t-shirts, peak caps, shorts, deodorant and panties for teenager girls, swimming costumes …. pretty much anything.

Maybe you work for a company that has an overrun of books they can donate, or samples of deodorant, or maybe there are 25 t-shirts that cannot be sold for what ever reason.

Santa Shoebox is still furiously busy – many of the boxes are submitted already, and at this stage there is frantic behind the scenes preparation for the Celebration Days – checking boxes, repairing boxes that might be short or boxes that need to be made up from scratch – and ensuring that every child at ever centre registered receives a personalised box.

If you have something you can donate – or can assist with post a note on their Facebook Page – and they will hook you up with an organiser in your area.

Present stats from their website.


I am doing three Celebration Days this years – those are the events where the boxes are handed out to the children.  Very exciting.  Very frightening.  Very daunting.

These images are from the boxes I packed and donated:






These images are taken at the Durbanville drop off point – and this was at the end of the third day around 20h30 – packing up for the night.  It was impossible to take a photograph that conveys the sheer scale of the amount of boxes done, and how much they still had to get through:





Leave a comment


  1. Jenny

     /  October 31, 2013

    I also did two boxes for teenage boys. But am quite dumbfounded that people don’t do this properly. Surely then just don’t do it at all. What a mission to fill those boxes! Well done to you. I may volunteer next year – sounds like a really good thing to do if you can’t afford to do lots of boxes.

  2. I usually make boxes and volunteer to check boxes but this year I did not make up any boxes as I will be making some up for my domestic’s kids instead. I decided to help with the ‘first aid’ corner at the Blouberg dropoff and ended up running it along with another lady. I managed to get a donation of R10 000 from the company I work for (Engen) and we spent the entire amount on stuff for first aid(lots of fun shopping)! We had a fair amount left over but also used a heck of a lot of stuff to fill boxes which were short. There are a couple of things which amaze me every year: 1) the incredible generosity of people (we collected over 6000 boxes) and sadly 2) how many people are incapable of following instructions! We had to add to so many boxes which were short(especially the bulk donors) and also had to take out quite a bit of inapproprate or 2nd hand stuff. And the number of people who did not wrap the lid and box separately still confounds me!

    But all in all a very rewarding experience which I totally enjoyed, even though my back was totally killing me after 3 days. Just don’t ask me to ever be the co-ordinator for an area, I take my hat off to those ladies! They do a sterling job.

  3. Well done 🙂 I was on our committee this year and I had no clue just how much went into this project – we wrapped up yesterday – our drop off closed on Saturday. We spent 3 days packing short boxes, organising donations, packing cartons, cleaning blah blah! It was physically exhausting but so very awesome!

  4. The Blessed Barrenness

     /  October 30, 2013

    I opted to do teenage boys boxes this year after hearing that they were always the last to be selected. It was really hard, I don’t know any teenage boys, and it was expensive but it was oh so rewarding!
    Well done Celeste!

  5. I totally love this project – we did our usual 3 very well packed boxes – 2 of which were teenage boys – which I find a lot harder than the little ones.

  6. Your boxes looks amazing, and well done for volunteering too! I took part for the first time this year and even though we only did one box (a bit too thoroughly I think, it could barely close!!) I can see how the more you get involved the more special and humbling and rewarding it becomes. It is a phenomenal project run incredibly well by total angels. RESPECT!

  1. Images from Santa Shoebox Celebration Days …. |

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