boyA five year old boy sitting on a step, hugging a pair of new shoes. The look of sheer joy and enthralled delight on his face is breathtaking. This photograph is from “The Best of Life : 37 Years of Pictures.” I saw it when I was at university and it has remained etched in my memory ever since.
The photograph spoke to me of giving and the joy of giving – for the recipient and the giver.
When I heard about the Santa’s Shoebox project, the memory of this child with his shoes danced into my mind. Glamour 2011 Women of the Year award winners, Irene Pieter’s and Dee Boehner run a charity, Kidz2Kidz. This encouraged children to give away toys they no longer played with. The success of this initiative led to the establishment of Santa’s Shoebox, now one of South Africa’s most successful charities.
Santa’s Shoebox was the ingenious idea of Irene Pieters. Take a large shoebox and then the filling of it begins. One is told what age your child is and what gender. It must have a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, flannel, an outfit of clothing, educational supplies, a toy and sweets. Obviously you get to choose the precise items. I was totally enthralled!
The Santa’s Shoebox slogan is: “Teach your child the joy of giving.” That is such a profound statement and is the main initiative behind this project. Irene Pieters’ aim is to bring the people of South Africa and Namibia together through the joy of giving. What better place to start than with the children. The boxes are distributed to more than 1000 recipient facilities, through more than 60 satellites around South Africa and Namibia. Many of these children have never received a gift before. Having them realise that there is a stranger somewhere who cares enough about them to make them this beautiful gift is very positive gesture. It can only contribute to healthy connections in the future.
“From small beginnings, great things emerge!” Beginning with just 180 boxes in 2006, they received a record 118,274 boxes last year.
“Imagine a tower of 118,274 shoe boxes piled on top of each other,” says Pieters. ”It would be about 23 times higher than Table Mountain.” This year’s target for Christmas is again 100,000 boxes full of gifts for children who usually don’t receive anything. “The success of the Project can largely be attributed to its personal nature. Donors give gifts to children whose names, ages and genders are known,” says Pieters.
shoeboxI had two boxes to fill for a four year old boy and girl. It was such fun buying a pair of jeans for my boy and a beautiful white sundress for my girl. Then there were things like hair slides and kiddies sun glasses for my girl, striped braces for my boy, crayons, colouring in books, bubbles, boys Spider-Man underpants and pretty Cinderella knickers for the girl. Plus T-shirts for both of them. I got the greatest delight in buying a gorgeous cuddly lion and tiger. I pictured them going to sleep with these toys lovingly embraced in their arms.
I smiled with delight at reading this article by Tammy Rankin, the Nelspruit Santa Shoebox Coordinator posted on Facebook:
“This is a story of a most amazing soul from Acornhoek (a rural town up north) who pledged 10 awesome boxes.
Tendani called on the Saturday, the day after Nelspruit reached 100% and was so disappointed that Nelspruit had no more kids to pledge. I told her she could pledge for Malelane but there were only teenagers left and that their boxes tend to cost more than the smaller kids. I suggested that she do less. Tendani called me to ask for advice and made me laugh when she said she really did not realise how much a scientific calculator cost and that would really mess up her budget. I could sense the relief when I said that it was only a suggestion and some other stationery would do! Needless to say this humble woman called me last Saturday, a week after our first chat, to say that she had done 10 boxes. Could we make a plan to meet up, as she would not be coming back to Nelspuit for drop off?
On Sunday she made a plan for a friend to bring her to the local shopping centre in White River to hand over the boxes, before she climbed into a taxi to head back to Acornhoek, some 100km’s away.
santa sbShe told me that she had seen this project on “etv” and decided that she should take some of her savings and spend it on others less fortunate. She is an admin clerk for a company in Acornhoek and not only did she put in the minimum requirements she did more! The boxes were done with so much love, thought and pride.
When I sms’d her that evening to say thank you, her reply was “ I so hope there will be more people who give without expecting something in return.”
It is in meeting people like her that make my life that much more richer.”
Tammy Rankin
I only found out while writing this blog, that courtesy of an innovative new partnership with Checkers, one of the country’s leading supermarket chains, a new Virtual Shoebox option was introduced for the first time. Now donors who live too far from the Santa Shoebox Drop-Off points are able to buy a Santa Shoebox and pledge it to a recipient child online. Checkers will pack your Shoebox on your behalf ensuring that it contains all the necessary items. Each box will be unique and special, and will be hand delivered to your recipient child. Unfortunately the closing date was the end of October, so on reading this it is too late for this years Shoebox Fund. But start planning for next year!
I in turn “wrap up” and take my leave. Enjoy opening my written “box” where you may sample some of the joy I experienced through the delight of the Santa Shoeboxes!