By Fiona Lee
The Christmas Shoebox Appeal started with a few simple questions; how can we give children who have nothing something of their own? How can we make them feel cared for in distressing conditions, and how can we help them celebrate a day of peace and giving? All the answers to these questions fit into a simple shoebox.
Peggy McGuire, a volunteer who has been involved in this project from the very beginning, told SIN the history and the makings of this appeal.
“At the very beginning, it started in Wales. It goes back to the time in Romania when the children were in the cots. Tied in cots. Someone from Wales saw it on the television and this man said, ‘We must do something about this’.”
“He was sitting down one day with his family and they were trying to decide what to do to give these children something for themselves. I think it was his son who said ‘put it in a shoebox.’ It was something so simple. It’s amazing what you can get in a shoebox.”
The appeal follows the ‘four W’s’ rule when thinking of what to put in a shoebox.
“You always want to have a wow factor and not every box that comes in has enough in them. When we talk about the four W’s, we mean something to wear, something to wash, something to write, and there’s a wow factor. A group of women meet in an old crèche in Barna to knit teddies. The volunteers really enjoy it.”
Something to wear: wooly hats, scarves, underwear, socks, gloves.
Something to wash: face cloths, a bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste.
Something to write: copy book, pencils, rubbers, markers and crayons.
Wow Factor: A toy, teddy, doll, ball or car, any kind of gift that will brighten up their day! Other recommended gifts are something like a tennis ball especially, or a yoyo, simple things that will provide immense entertainment.
Boxes can be incredibly cheap to make, but still be well made. Crayons and markers that were never really used litter most family houses and can be gathered together, copy books can be made pretty by being covered with festive wrapping paper, teddies and toys can be bought in charity shops and you can find every hat and cloth under the sun in your local Penneys!
Peggy puts up a presentation in the Westside Library, showing examples of boxes and posters explaining where the boxes go worldwide. These countries include: Kosova, Romania, Belarus, Latvia, Ukraine, Albania, Kenya, Congo, Swaziland and many more.
“You can pick up leaflets there too, all the information is on them. How to do a box, what to put in a box, the age of the child, and €4 for posting and package. I remember one time there was a little girl and she was late coming with her box and a lady said she’d post it. It cost €13! People think €4 is a lot, but it’s not really.”
Peggy stresses the importance of volunteers in this organisation and what they do to help out. “Without the volunteers we wouldn’t be able to do this. I’m a volunteer all my life nearly, doing this. They’re out there every night from 7-10pm on the racecourse in Ballybrit. People come from work and they love doing it, they love helping out. Anyone is welcome to come out any time!”
“The schools are great support and it’s really good for the kids. Most of the schools I visited are all still doing them. They’re still interested! Some schools come out on a bus to help out in the warehouse too.”
This appeal not only brings joy and care to children who are disadvantaged, but has brought together communities both locally and globally to achieve a simple goal that changes lives.
For those looking to get involved in this lovely tradition, you can find out more information on teamhope.ie.