Behind the Scenes

Meeting the team behind Team Hope’s Shoebox Appeal

(From the October - December 2019 issue of VOX)

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Jonathan Douglas joined the Team Hope staff in June 2019, having previously worked with The Mission to End Leprosy based in Sandyford and as Youth and Children’s Worker of Kill O’ The Grange Parish in Deansgrange. He shares his first impressions of the Christmas Shoebox Appeal in Ireland:

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I joined Team Hope just a few months ago to work on the Christmas Shoebox Appeal. In that short time, I’ve already had the privilege to meet many of our 51 volunteer coordinators across the country. Through our chats, I’ve heard and felt their passion for the Shoebox Appeal; for some that passion has been going on for decades! Last year their dedication helped bring gift-filled shoeboxes to 259,079 children.

I’ve been so inspired by the volunteers and their stories. They give so much of their time all year round! During the year, volunteers collect shoebox fillers like handmade knitted teddy bears, copy books, toothbrushes and tennis balls. They search for bargains and share where to find treasures for the boxes. They fill their attics with goodies.

One lady fills one box a month throughout the year. She was introduced to the appeal by her father who was raised in an orphanage in Ireland. He knew first-hand how much it would have meant to receive a box and so he encouraged as many people as possible to get involved.

Volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds - some are teenagers and others in their 90’s; there is even a dog that helps out in County Clare!

Every year in November the shoeboxes are collected from our official drop-off points by volunteers and brought to local centres for checking. Groups like the Army, Civil Defence and the Connaught Rugby Team help collect shoeboxes. In Dublin, a bus from Dublin Bus helps collect the shoeboxes from schools and businesses. One driver, Paul, has been helping for over 15 years! Last year he was lost for words when he was able to see for himself the boxes being given out to children in Romania. “It’s mesmerising!” he said. (See our video at www.teamhope.ie )

It’s all hands on deck in November and the checking centres are a sight to see. Thousands of boxes are carefully and lovingly checked both for customs purposes and to make sure the items are suitable for a child. Many of those involved are family members that stretch three or even four generations! Volunteers come from all kinds of backgrounds - some are teenagers and others in their 90’s; there is even a dog that helps out in County Clare!

By the end of November, the boxes are sent off to children affected by poverty in Africa and Eastern Europe. Many of these children have never received a present before and the reports back from our partners show the joy on the children’s faces as they open their shoebox gifts. Simple gifts of toys and sweets means so much but the children also receive important items like clothes, pens and copy books, which they can use in school.

It is a privilege and a joy to serve God in this way and I am so excited to begin the campaign this year and be a part of the Christmas Shoebox Appeal family. Every box counts! If you would like to take part in the Christmas Shoebox Appeal as a volunteer find out more on www.teamhope.ie.