Brian Joss – With a bright red Ford Transit that many instantly relate to Santa’s sleigh, Ford Motor Company Southern Africa (FMCSA) is happy to be back on the road in support of the Santa Shoebox Project.
Santa Shoebox is a voluntary initiative that has delivered Christmas magic to South African children since 2006 – and is on course to deliver its one-millionth Santa Shoebox this year.
The project relies on the efforts of those more fortunate to make sure that, between October and December, tens of thousands of underprivileged children have some festive fun to look forward to. For these disadvantaged children, opening a gift that include just the basic essentials is enough to instantly bring a wide smile to their faces.
These neatly-packed and personalised shoeboxes are loaded in the Ford Transit and delivered to hundreds of beneficiary facilities around Gauteng, North West, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.
To ensure every donation holds its own unique story, each Santa Shoebox is tracked by the Santa Shoebox app – available on Apple and Android. Through the app, each donor can watch the steps of this magical journey unfold as the shoeboxes travel around the country and are received by the very children for whom they were pledged – a heart-warming moment that forms a lasting connection.
In a very short time, Santa Shoebox has established itself as one of the leading NPOs in the country. Starting out in Cape Town in 2006 with just 180 shoeboxes, it has now reached a total donation of 957 297 shoeboxes – with the millionth shoebox expected to be handed over this year.
Santa Shoebox has achieved this phenomenal rise thanks to a network of volunteers and corporate sponsors. This year, the project encourages everyone to get involved, to help overcome the effects of COVID-19 which has collapsed many vital employment opportunities, put additional strain on families and impacted the work of most NPOs and charity organisations.
“We are extremely proud to have been involved with Santa Shoebox Project since 2015, supporting the organisation’s commendable efforts to deliver essential supplies and some exciting treats, along with that special Festive Season excitement, to underprivileged children across the country,” says Minesh Bhagaloo, General Manager of Communications at FMCSA.
“These are things many of us take for granted, and this year the need is greater than ever due to the devastating toll that COVID-19 has had on the country’s economy, as well as the health and wellbeing of its citizens.
Helping Santa Shoebox to deliver the one-millionth shoebox is a truly rewarding and humbling experience, and lives up to Ford’s brand values of going further and helping others,” Bhagaloo says.
The success of the Santa Shoebox Project can largely be attributed to its personal nature: donors give gifts of essential items and treats to children whose names, ages and genders are known. The minimum eight required items are a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a wash cloth, sweets, a toy, school supplies and an outfit of clothing – all new, unused and age-appropriate.
The only criteria for those who want to include an extra item is that it must fit in a normal-sized shoebox. Once all items are neatly packed, it’s time to decorate. Reach for the wrapping paper, bows and ribbons and make a shoebox that would not look out of place under any Christmas tree in the world.
“Without the Ford Transit’s space and ability to travel on rough gravel we wouldn’t be able to accomplish these essential deliveries,” says Margie Kostelac, the Santa Shoebox Project’s Regional Manager in Gauteng. “When the Transit is fully-loaded it can carry about 200 shoeboxes which helps tremendously to achieve our daily delivery targets. Already the Ford Transit is being used to bring sponsored items to our warehouse in preparation for our drop-off points all across the country. From the first week of November these gifts will be packed into the Transit for delivery to isolated rural areas where our other logistic suppliers can’t reach.”
“When the children see this red Ford Transit from as far as 500 metres away, they start running towards it. As we arrive at the classroom they begin singing and dancing all around the vehicle – it’s the most phenomenal feeling in the world. It fills your heart to see the immediate difference in their lives.”
In order to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, the packing of each shoebox needs to be managed sensibly with regular sanitising of hands and with a face mask on at all times. It is advised that this should be done a minimum of three days prior to dropping the shoeboxes off.
If you’re unable to do your own shopping, packing and drop off, a team of volunteers will be happy to do it for you with the convenient Virtual Santa Shoeboxes. These Virtual Santa Shoeboxes are packaged and distributed in exactly the same way and are so valuable in helping Santa Shoebox reach, and exceed, that one-millionth milestone delivery. Visit www.santashoebox.org.za to see how easy it is to start a pledge and bring a little Christmas spirit to a child who needs it most.
CAPTION: Ho, Ho, Ho: the Santa Shoebox project 2020 gets under way. Picture: Motorpress