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 – https://www.facebook.com/SantaShoebox and they will hook you up with an organiser in your area.

Present stats from their website.

TOTAL KIDS
100000
BOXES PLEDGED
119089
DROPPED OFF
89671

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:

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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:

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Santa Shoebox Project … not sure I am getting the warm and fuzzy feeling …

I have decided to take part in the Santa Shoebox Project this year.  I went to the website and selected two children per person in our family – the result is 10 boxes.

I should have done less, as 10 is quite a lot of boxes, and if you average out R150.00 – R200.00 a box it is a bit of coughing at your credit card statement.

I selected two boys in the 10 – 12 year old range – partly because I felt that boys in that age range might not be as appealing as shopping for a 3 year old girl.    I also tried to pick children in the same age range as my kids.  Technically these are Connor’s boxes ….. presently he has no idea we are doing Santa Shoebox, so you can see how involved I have managed to get the family.

Granted, I have not told them, that might be the first problem – but I am a bit of a procrastinator and will spring in to action on the day I am meant to drop these boxes off.

I bought the boys playing cards as “toys” – no idea what else I could buy for a 10 – 12 year old that wasn’t a computer.  I also bought them a pack of underpants each and AXE deodorant as extra – I kept trying to bear in mind that the contents of these boxes really needs to be “fun” but realistically useful, and what do they need after the “joy of Xmas” has passed.  Underpants and deodorant seems like a logical gift that keeps on giving.

I bought all the kids a stationery pack which has pencils, pair of scissors, pencils, ruler, eraser etc – the same multi packs I buy for my kids.  For the older boys I also bought a big pack of “bic pens” – and I will add a reading book each as well to their boxes.

Kennith has helped out and has got 10 good sized shoe boxes.  He has also bought some great things from Cape Union Mart to add, like beanies, little LCD torches, sporks (hey makes sense!!)  and so on.  Really nice things for each child.

Today I went shopping to purchase the toiletries, stationery, sweets, toys and the last of the things so that I could sit this weekend and pack these boxes.

I really struggled to find a toys for the children that fitted in to the shoeboxes and weren’t crap.  I really did not want to put things in that would not last to the next day.  I found a good variety, but at some point I needed to stop myself and say “you cannot buy everything, stick to the list …. or you are never going to stop!!”

The bags are lying at the door, with the pile of boxes, and the wrapping paper and stickers I bought to decorate the boxes.

The problem is that shopping today made me feel pretty bleak and sad for these kids.  I kept thinking to myself “what if this shoe box is the only gift this child gets this year?” and I just felt sad, and sort of tearful in the Checkers underwear aisle.

There is nothing I can put into a shoebox that is going to make a long term change to these kids lives – and then I think of my kids who get pretty much anything they want at the drop of a hat, and that just makes me feel worse for the 10 kids names that I am holding.

I had these visions of putting a letter in for each child.  Telling them that they are loved, and that even though today might look a bit bleak, life does go on.  People do make something of themselves no matter how crap their backgrounds.  There are more kind and generous people in the world than mean ones.  But then I decided that might sound a bit twee, so I canned that idea.

I kept thinking about these 10 boxes I was stocking.  “My” kids are : Thaimile (Boy 6); Wilmie (Girl 6); Kamva (Boy 11); Andile Lubabalo (Boy 12); Jayden C (Boy 4); Anelisa (Girl 4); Sammy Joe (Girl 9); Sange (Girl 6); Kayra (Girl 6); Nicolas (Boy 5).

I think the Santa Shoebox Project was aiming to get 100 000 boxes to 100 000 children.  That means 100 000 children whose only gift this year will be one of these shoe boxes – and what about all those kids who did not make the list?  What are those kids getting?

Overwhelmed much?

I know I should be feeling all Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya about taking part in this campaign, but to be honest it really has made me feel terribly sad today!

Otherwise, how are your Santa Shoeboxes coming on?

Get involved in the Santa Shoebox Project {2012}

The Santa Shoebox Project is an inspiring community initiative of the Kidz2Kidz Trust  that co-ordinates the donation, collection and distribution of personalized gifts at Christmas time to underprivileged children across South Africa.

Participating is a profoundly valuable and personal experience with each donor selecting the child he or she chooses to pledge a Santa Shoebox for by name, gender and age.

The website works like a charm, and is so easy to use.  You pick the area, the school, and it gives you suggested children who you can support – so you can tweak it and get the mix of ages and whether they are boys/girls you want to supply gifts to.

I did not do this last year – I was in the middle of my little break down, but I did it in 2010 and it was very rewarding.

Grab some shoeboxes, decorate them, the website gives you names/information/suggested contents for the packs.  You toddle along and drop them off and ta-da some needy kids get fabulous gifts.

What could be easier?  Few things.

Their aim this year is to give 100 000 children gifts.   The present pledge amount is close to 21 000 so they still have a way to go.

If you would like to make up a box, but maybe are struggling with logistics, or you are having surgery on the day, or something, feel free to sponsor a box through me – I figure R100.00 – R150.00 will make up a box – and I will make one up on your behalf and deliver it to the site.

Alternatively you want to donate straight to them, believe it or not sometimes pledged boxes do not arrive, and they have to make up boxes for the kids who will not be getting a box …. sad shit, but it appears this does happen.

So, see there are no excuses, get involved and give 100 000 kids a Santa Shoebox this year!