There’s a gift to making many children happy
A TSUNAMI of kindness. That’s how Santa Shoebox chief executive Irene Pieters describes the help the project receives from the public every year.
This year, 96 079 shoe boxes were dropped off at 62 satellites around the country and Namibia. The 12th campaign has been wrapped up and brings the total number of Santa Shoe boxes distributed to 858 673.
“We’re marching to 1 million – a number we will reach by 2020. The gifts went to more than 1 400 facilities which include crèches, pre-schools, primary and high schools, children’s homes, places of safety and feeding schemes,” said Pieters.
And there’s no time to relax. The next campaign kicks off as soon as the current one is done as it takes a whole year to put it all in place.
A core group of 320 people manage the project. But at drop-off time in October, around 2 000 volunteers work at various points.
Pieters gave up a successful 25-year career as a sports physiotherapist because of osteoarthritis in her hands. She joined a children’s charity as a volunteer in 2007. She was inspired by the founder of that group to distribute gifts to children at Christmas. Pieters became project leader of what would later become Santa Shoebox.
“It took off to a flying start – doing 2 000 boxes instead of the planned 600 in 2007, in its first year,” said Pieters.
And the best part is still to see the amazement on a child’s face when they find their name on a box.
“When they realise this is not another hand-out, it is a gift lovingly made by a caring stranger – is a magical moment every time,” she said.
And in their thank you letters, the children often ask that the same be done for other children. And it’s the little things often taken for granted, that bring great joy to the children.
“One little boy clutched all his hygiene items close to his chest, closed his eyes and shouted ‘vanaand gaan ek skrop’ (tonight I’m going to scrub). He had just received his own toothbrush for the first time in his life,” she said.