THE Spirit of Christmas has already arrived in Clare. It’s the period of the year when schools, companies and people of all ages come together, as a team, in order to light up, not the streets, but someone’s life, through a shoe box filled up with small things such as clothes, toys, games, tooth brush, pencils, sweets, etc. Clare people are now used to packing up shoe boxes at this time of the year. The countries which receive the Shoebox Appeal change over time according to the needs of the children. Partners of Team Hope identify where the neediest children are. This year, from Ireland, the boxes are going to go to Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Rwanda in Africa, and Romania, Transnistria, Kosova, Moldova, Ukraine and Albania in Eastern Europe. The idea of the Shoebox Appeal is to give a better end to the year for those who have nothing by giving the small shoe box as a Christmas gift to help these children and their communities to have a happier Christmas time.
“It is a simple message of Christmas, it is showing love in such a simple way, love in a box, that is what the slogan used to be and it is exactly what it is,” said June O’Neill, who along with her husband Tim, brought the project to Clare in 2001.
“There were a few people doing boxes in Clare, but they were sent to Limerick. There was nobody organizing it in County Clare, so when Tim was asked to take it on, we said yes. Tim just said that it is such a simple idea that has a huge effect and anyone could do it, anyone. It is so simple that you could fill this small little box and make a difference in someone’s life,” June explains.
“So, we took it on in 2001 in our house. For two years we did it at home and then, as it got bigger, in 2003 luckily we got the use of an empty shop.”
It is a simple message of Christmas, it is showing love in such a simple way, love in a box, that is what the slogan used to be and it is exactly what it is.
Last year Clare sent 4,534 boxes to needy children around the world. This Christmas over 100 volunteers are working, picking up boxes, wrapping and advertising this wonderful way to make a difference in a child’s life. The team take special care with the boxes, checking and wrapping them all in the same way, says Shoebox Appeal Co-Ordinator Kathy Locke.
“We open every box to make sure everything in it is safe, that there is nothing sharp, nothing breakable, nothing that would spill and nothing scary, because these are going to places where there has been war and fighting, we don’t want children frightened. Once we look and we know it’s okay, we apply a special gift wrap,” said Ms Locke.
Helping others, indeed, brings happiness to the giver and the receiver of the Shoebox Appeal.
The Clare Christmas Shoebox Appeal began on October 1 and ends on November 10. People can choose the age of the children that they want to do the box for. The age where the most need exists is with teenage boys from 10 to 14. The list of drop off point are on the website www.teamhope.ie.