THE Santa Shoebox Project, which collects gifts for underprivileged children, has “kicked off with gusto”, says Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay coordinator Kim Keen.
The Walmer resident said the project identified 32 facilities. The initial target for shoe boxes was 2675 – a far cry from the 150 they started with two years ago when they distributed to just four facilities.
There are another nine facilities on the waiting list, depending the demand of the Eastern Cape public. This will bring the target of boxes to more than 3000.
The aim of the project is to bring joy to children during the festive season, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds who may not have received Christmas gifts before.
The non-profit organisation was started in 2006 in Cape Town and in 2010 Keen took the job of the Eastern Cape coordinator.
“I made inquiries about the project towards the end of 2009. The project first came to the Eastern Cape the following year,” Keen said.
She first heard about the project after reading about it in an in-flight magazine on her way to visit her young grandsons. She thought it was a wonderful concept and figured it would work well in the Eastern Cape.
“My gran instilled the value of giving and the importance of tradition in me and, after becoming a granny for the second time, I knew I wanted to do something to leave as a legacy to my grandsons.”
Keen encourages people to involve their children or grandchildren as the essence of the project is to teach children the joy of giving. One of the ways they could do this is by letting children choose and fill gift boxes and decorate and label them too.
“Many children find it hard to believe that items they take for granted are cherished by the recipients.”
The Santa Shoebox network provides content guidelines for each box to make sure that every child receives a similar age appropriate gift.
The guidelines include basic necessities like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and face cloths, as well as sweets, educational supplies, toys and clothing. Keen said what makes the project unique is the donor knows the first name, age, gender and care institution of the child they are giving gifts to.
Keen came up with a new “pay it forward” concept this year by asking some of last year’s beneficiaries to wrap boxes this year.
What keeps Keen motivated is the look of joy and total appreciation on the faces of the children.
“The vast majority would not receive anything at the end of the year were it not for the donors as many of the children are orphans or live in abject poverty.”
The drop-off point for boxes is King’s Court Shopping Centre.
Drop-off will take place on October 26 between 8am and 6pm and on October 27 between 8am and 4pm.
For more details and to register as a donor or a volunteer visit: www.santashoebox.co.za.