Santa Shoebox marks 10th anniversary

The Cape Town International Convention Centre was packed with volunteers for the Santa Shoe Box Project last weekend.

The Santa Shoebox Project, a charity that brings Christmas cheer to thousands of children in some of the country’s poorest communities, celebrated its 10th anniversary on Friday October 28.

Volunteers of the project is busy packing and distributing this year’s presents – it’s come a long way since it started a decade ago with just 2 000 gift boxes.

One of the volunteers, Camille Quine, from Camps Bay, said she first got involved six years ago. “I wanted to give some of my time to the cause. It’s important for people to give back some of their time for volunteer work.

“I think it is meaningful because many of the children might not get presents come Christmas time.”

She said it was very easy to get involved in the project, and she encouraged others to do the same. Lisa Hartman, from Tamboerskloof, handed in her first Santa Shoebox last year and it made her want to get more involved.

“Christmas is a very special time. I don’t have any kids in my family, and I feel like poor children should be happy. It is so much fun as well. It will mean more to them than people who are spoiled rotten. “Christmas is about spreading the love, so spread it beyond your family and friends. Most looked-after kids have way too much anyway, whereas this little bit can make a difference to these kids.”

Corieda Kotze, from Gardens, got involved a few years ago when a friend asked her to help.

“I had nothing to do at the time, so I was happy to come. Once you get involved, you can’t stop, and you feel good about the whole project.

“I think it is a feel-good thing, and it is all about bringing happiness to children.”

Mpho Tutu van Furth, from the Tutu Foundation, spoke at the event and described the fun the foundation’s staff had had packing gifts.

“The fun of it was that we got to pack our shoe boxes, and it was a positive way for the staff to spend time together. The thing about the project that is really special to me is that we try to instil that it is more blessed to give than to receive. This is one project where our kids can really feel that it is; they know they are giving to somebody who is really going to appreciate what’s in that shoe box.”

Ms Tutu van Furth said the project was a bridge between communities.

CEO of the Santa Shoebox Project, Irene Pieters, said the organisation distributed gifts to children all around the country and had three drop-off points in Namibia. “The project is unique in that it is not an anonymous gift. People can choose a child off the website with name, age and gender. It gets distributed mostly in the month of November because many of the facilities are schools.”

She said that in 2006, a group in Camps Bay had been distributing second-hand things to children when they had the idea to give a specific gift for Christmas. Ms Pieters said she had joined the following year as a volunteer, and later became the project leader.

“In the first year, in 2007, we aimed to do 600 boxes, and we did 2 000. I knew there was something happening here and people loved the project.”

The project had doubled in size every year since, she said. People can get involved by registering on the website as a supporter.

“We start in January again in planning for next year, so if people want to get involved in volunteering that would be fantastic,” said Ms Pieters.

Visit www.santashoebox.org.za for details about the project.