Images from Santa Shoebox Celebration Days ….

I decided this year to volunteer at the Santa Shoebox Celebration Days – it’s the days that the boxes are handed out to the children at the centers/schools/educares who had registered to take part.

It was far outside my comfort zone.  The idea of entering a room with dozens of people that I did not know would create a large degree of stress and panic, and a good dose of social paranoia.

I mentioned in a previous post that Santa Shoebox is an unbelievable initiative – the awesome and unbelievable behind the scenes work of the mostly-volunteers – and it is.

Every time I find out more or meet someone else who is involved I am amazed at what they do – these are always people who have busy lives, work, juggle kids, and somehow in all of this find time to volunteer or give a little of their time and energy to this project.

The logistical planning, adjusting, finding new boxes, getting the right boxes to the right centers on time is quite awe inspiring.

The centers register quite some time back (I think in June) and submit their names.  Between then and the Celebration Day children leave the center, or join the center and there is often quite a lot of checking, rechecking and running around to obtain more boxes.

Today’s center was in Elsies River and there were 72 children – by far the biggest celebration day I have ever taken part in.

There was no way I could do the Celebration Days without the motley crew of wonderful people who jumped in to help – Judith Cross, Sue Biller, Juanita Sharon Africa, Caroline Rolo, Thelma and her mom.

Cindy Erasmus came along to today’s Celebration and brought along a cake donated by Shoprite that was big enough for 100 people!

Thanks to the all the Santa Shoebox Organisers, co-ordinators, donors, suppliers and volunteers – and the thousands of people who donated wonderful boxes and items to be handed out, and who work tireless on this Project all year long.

It is  an unbelievable initiative.  

Watching the children when they receive their boxes is a very humbling and moving experience.  Knowing that each box handed out and opened by a child, was specifically made for that child by a special person, family or maybe even another child was unforgettable.

If you didn’t donate a box this year – or building a box is not something you can do – consider purchasing stationery, tennis balls, cars, children’s clothing on sale after Xmas or when ever – purchase items on sale – anything that can go into the boxes for next year, keep them in a bag, and donate this on to Santa Shoebox Project for 2014.

Every item is used, and often “emergency boxes” need to be packed and provided at the last moment.

Random images from the various Celebration Days:

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Pop along to their Facebook page to see if there is a center in your area that still needs some help: https://www.facebook.com/SantaShoebox

Or visit their home page to get some ideas of how you can take part: http://www.santashoebox.co.za/

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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 Drop off Day ….

Today (and tomorrow) is Santa Shoebox drop off day at my venue.  I was using the Durbanville Cape Town drop off for my boxes.

I looked at the site earlier to check where the numbers were sitting:

Total kids:  95 319

Boxes pledged: 10 187

which is really great news – now is just to hope that everyone who pledged gets their boxes on time to the right venue.  Wrong venue means there is a child that does not get his or her box, so definitely double-check that before you leave the house.

I arrived today – the place was easy to find – the site gave great directions.  Parking plentiful.  A friendly co-ordinator asked if she could help me carry.

I said :”er no, I should be fine….” She insisted and brought another co-ordinator and, we carried our 10 boxes inside from my car.

They were so organised, a quick scan into the system, and then a “thank you, they are beautiful” and I was sent on my way.

I was really pleased to be part of the Santa Shoebox Project this year.

I can’t say I had fun wrapping the boxes, as I remembered on box one that I actually HATE wrapping presents/books – so I decided to use the white boxes I had and write on them, draw squiggles and stick things on.  I liked that part.

I was really happy with the boxes when they were done.

There are 10 more kids getting gifts this year than there were last year.  This project has at the same time made me immensely sad.  That bitter-sweet sad, where you cry, but smile at the same time.  I know it is all great and and and … but it shows you in a rather profound way how fortunate your children are, versus so many kids in South Africa.

Hats off to how well this project has been organised.

I love the “no shit” tone of the website – here’s your list, here is how you pack, this is where you drop them off – yes, that is all.

I was a bit of a dope and did not take pictures of my boxes – they lay in my lounge for long enough, you would have thought I could have spared a moment and taken a few photographs, but sadly no, of course that realisation became apparent as I was handing them over to the lovely ladies in the aprons this morning.

I only took photos of these two girl boxes, as I left them behind today.

I used little foam shapes on the boxes, some flat sheets for colour, then I used a permanent marker to draw a design on the boxes.

The black dotted lines wraps around the box, and then when it loops to the bottom I wrote a little message on the boxes – I hope the children can read my hand writing:

Congratulations Santa Shoebox Project – what an incredible initiative.  I am definitely going to steal the idea I saw and build at least one box a month so when next October swings round it is not such a HUGE project, and more importantly I can pick up bargains as the year goes by.

{Thanks to Kennith Barlow who helped me with the boxes.  Okay, he did not actually make or pack any, but he brought me glasses of wine, and he also bought some great things from Cape Union Mart which I added to the box!}