Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Santa Shoebox Project

About a month ago, a friend of mine forwarded me an email about the Santa Shoebox Project - it's basically a project organized by a non-profit organization, Kidz 2 Kidz, with the aim of getting people to volunteer filling up a shoebox with gift items for specific children at various orphanages for Christmas. You basically pick out a medium sized shoebox from your stash, wrap it up in nice paper so the child can keep it as a memento, and fill it with gifts from 5 different categories they've come up with.

I thought it was a great idea, but by the time I contacted the lady who runs the project, she had already filled her quota of 5,000 shoeboxes (she had 6,000!) However, she said more were welcome, and even though I may not have a specific child in mind to find gifts for, I could pick a gender and age since these poor orphanages tend to fill up more around the holiday season and they always need more last-minute gifts. So poor thing!

Since she said they were lacking in gifts for pre-schoolers, I went out shopping with a 5-year old girl in mind. These are the categories I was given:

WOAH! Talk about a shopping list! It was great having a shopping list though, since I'm completely clueless about kids and wouldn't have known where to begin. I gave myself a budget of R200 (at the time, it worked out to about S$50. Now, with the kaput Rand, it's probably worth like S$0.50!) ...Lemme just tell you. KIDS ARE EXPENSIVE. There was no way I was going to stick to that budget - the average toy in Toy Kingdom was R150, 3/4 my budget! ...but if everything in every category was going to cost me that much, there was no way I was gonna afford it, plus it would've just taken the joy out of giving.

I ended up shopping around and finding lots of great things on discount. Don't mean to seem like an El-Cheapo, but I had no clue who this box was going to, and my whole intention was to try and bring some cheer to a 5-year old, not empty my pockets and end up resenting her. Funny enough, I ended up feeling like Jack Nicholson in the movie "About Schmidt" - y'know, where he starts writing letters to "Dear Ndugu..." and starts building his world around this friendship he has with the orphan he sponsors in Tanzania (who clearly can't read nor understand Jack's life musings he spills out with gusto).

Email subscribers can download the YouTube link at the bottom of your newsletter to watch a clip from the movie.

Yeah, this 5-year old became my Ndugu that Saturday afternoon I spent shopping for her. It was the weirdest thing, trying to figure out what a 5-year old girl would like and appreciate. Most toys have ages written on them ("Suitable for 3+ and up"), but so many of them had tiny parts which seemed kinda dangerous if swallowed. I'm sure some 5-year olds still put random things in their mouths.

In the end, I came back with the biggest stash of stuff and I was well-pleased at what a bargain hunter queen I am. My list of stuff:
- TOY: My Little Pony (lookalike, not the branded pony)
- EDUCATIONAL SUPPLY: Staedtler Colour Pencils, Marker Pens, Colouring Book, Long ruler, Pencil Case (with smaller ruler on the inside). (Never stinge on education!)
- HYGIENE ITEM: Barbie toothbrush, toothpaste, a super cool DOUBLE-SIDED afro pick (skinny comb on one side, wide-tooth afro pick on the other. Kelly had a good laugh), hair ties.
- CLOTHING ITEM: a cute butterfly top from Edgars (local dept. store)
- SUGAR & SPICE: Marshmallow gums and Allsorts Licorice

Total Price: R155. Way under my initial budget of R200, plus multiple items for most categories too! (Call me resourceful Producer) :)

Funny thing is, I've always thought of myself as pretty progressive, not believing in raising kids on gender stereotypes. But when I put everything together in the box, I was pretty shocked that everything put together was undeniably... PIIIIIIINK! (What else?) And definitely for a girly girl. Oops. There goes my "progressive" theory.

It was great fun putting it all together and I hope I'll help make a little girl colour-me-pink happy come Christmas. I'm pleased to say they collected a final tally of a whopping 7,500 shoeboxes altogether! (1,000 boxes came from a corporate sponsor, my favourite - Woolworths!)

I'm not sure if they're still collecting anymore boxes, but if you're interested, contact Irene Pieters of Kidz to Kidz.

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