PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Thanks to the big hearts of Plettenberg Bay residents, more than 1 200 underprivileged children in the town will each receive a Christmas present this year as part of the Santa Shoebox Project.
"We are absolutely overwhelmed by the local support for the programme. Last year we collected 850 boxes and this year we will be handing out about 1 260," said local project leader Deanne Roberts.
The project, which was started in Cape Town 12 years ago with only 180 gifts and has grown to reach more than 760 000 children, aims to collect and distribute Christmas gifts to underprivileged children across South Africa and Namibia.
Recipient facilities, including crèches and schools, register with Santa Shoebox every year and provide a list of children to benefit from the initiative. The public can then pledge to supply a gift to a specific child of which the name, age and gender are known.
Eight items in each gift
These gifts include eight items including a facecloth and soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, an age-appropriate gift, sweets, an educational item and a set of clothing.
On Saturday 13 October all the pledged boxes for Plettenberg Bay were dropped off at the Piesang Valley Community Hall for checking. "We make sure that each box contains the required items and also make sure that the boxes go to the correct facility and child," Roberts said.
They had expected about 25 volunteers to help on Saturday, but Roberts said about 35 showed up to assist.
Local schools played a major role in making sure that this year was a success, she said. Plettenberg Bay Primary School collected about 350 boxes, Wittedrift High School 75 and Greenwood Bay College about 200. Footsteps, Raphaeli Waldorf School and The Reef also contributed.
In time for Christmas
Volunteers from Bitou Family Care, a Plett-based NGO that aims to transform disadvantaged communities by offering love, support and care to families and children, also put 170 gifts together.
The gifts will be handed over to the children from November to just before Christmas. "We are currently looking for volunteers to help with the handovers at the various facilities."
Roberts said during the handover that the volunteers ensure that each child is given his or her gift directly and that the children open their gifts. "This is where the excitement really starts, especially among the little ones. Most of these children would not receive a gift over Christmas. Many have never had their own toothbrush and share with family members. Some have never had a new set of clothing, ever."
During the handover ceremony the children are also read a story about a young boy who received Christmas presents but felt empty as he knew there were others who did not get any. The boy then collects gifts for those children and only once he gives it to them does he feel fulfilled. "We want the children to know how Santa Shoebox started and what a blessing it is to give," said Roberts.
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