After years of seeing news about the wonderful Santa Shoebox Project and contributing while still in university and with family, I was able to participate in the best part of it and visit three of the receiving creches to handover the gift boxes to young children. There is simply no better feeling for me than gift giving; with my own friends, family and children but even more so to children who have a lot less when it comes to material things and who live in the underprivileged regions of Cape Town such as Khayelitsha.
The Santa Shoebox project is one of South Africa’s most popular charities and after fourteen years, has donated over 850 000 gift boxes to children around South Africa and Namibia. “The project is well-known for it’s personal nature,” says Deborah Zelezniak, Chief Executive Officer of the Santa Shoebox project. “Through our partner network of more than 1000 recipient facilities, the name, age and gender of every child is known to their donors. A typical Santa Shoebox contains toothpaste and a toothbrush, a bar of soap and washcloth, an outfit of clothing, educational supplies, sweets and toys.
On the 14 November, we headed out with representatives from Book Dash, MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet and Santa Shoebox to hand over the boxes. As we visited fairly small playschools, many of the young children were quite shocked to see strangers in their classroom, but soon got excited once they were handed them each a box. We helped them each unwrap them and discover the exciting goodies inside. The girls loved their microphones, dolls and dresses while the boys seated intently for the car or vehicle in the box. There were screeches of delight, tapping on boxes and some completely overwhelmed faces.
This year there was an exciting addition to this popular project as MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet has partnered with Book Dash and the Santa Shoebox Project to ignite a love of reading through book ownership. To create a nation of lifelong readers and support literacy among youth, research shows that every child should own and have access to storybooks. Yet, books are expensive, often seen as a luxury, and owning just one storybook is out of the reach of millions of South African children. This Christmas, the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet community loyalty programme is changing this for 50 000 children under seven years old and adding a wonderful Book Dash storybook to the gift boxes.
“Education is a high priority for many of our MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet supporters, and low levels of literacy is one of the country’s greatest challenges,” says Trish Kowo, MySchool’s Marketing Manager. “This Christmas we looked for a high impact project to support, and we are delighted to partner with the Santa Shoebox Project and Book Dash to bring the joys, fun and benefits of reading into the homes of 50 000 young children.”
More about Book Dash:
Book Dash, a registered non-profit organisation, has an innovative model to create and share new, quality South African children’s books that are highly affordable. Over the past four years, 128 original storybooks, across eleven indigenous languages, have been created by volunteer creative teams at 12-hour events called Book Dashes. More than 650 000 books have been printed and put in the small hands of young children at a cost of as little as R10 a book.
According to Dorette Louw, Book Dash Director, a 2016 study undertaken by the South African Book Development Council revealed that 58% of South African households do not have single leisure book. “Our work is evidence-based,” Louw says, “Access to books is critical to increase literacy skills, school readiness, vocabulary and numeracy skills. Research shows that children who are keen readers or who are often read to by adults, are more engaged, more attentive and have higher levels of empathy. Reading improves socio-emotional development, and as a shared activity strengthens the relationships between children and their caregivers. Owning books can significantly boost a disadvantaged child’s academic achievements and change the course of their lives for the better. We’re delighted that the MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet programme and their supporters are partnering with us to get our books into so many Santa shoeboxes that go straight to disadvantaged children this Christmas.”
What a joy to be able to meet some of the children who benefit from the Santa Shoebox and witness the receiving end of this project. The excitement of the car, sweets and toy discovery was very special to witness.
To everyone in South Africa who took the time to contribute to Santa Shoebox project, pack a box with love and also choose to regularly swipe your MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, thank you on behalf of the children…your boxes were received with much love.
To become a supporter, sign up for free as a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet cardholder at www.myschool.co.za or download the App. You can select up to three causes that matter to you. Every time you swipe your card at a participating retailer, a donation is made to your beneficiaries on your behalf, at no cost to you. For more info on Book Dash visit bookdash.org and get ready to contribute or pack boxes next year with santashoebox.org