Breda Graham follows the journey of Team Hope’s two-millionth shoebox from the hands of one of our own to the hands of a little girl in Romania.
Last Christmas, you gave someone hope. Yes, you who put a smile on a child’s face over the holiday season by filling a shoebox with simple but desired gifts.
You, who chose to help a girl, aged five to nine, by printing out a label, ticking an age group, and sticking it on the top right hand corner of a shoebox lid which was carefully wrapped in festive paper, chosen especially by you.
You, who filled your shoebox with a pink flamingo cuddly toy, gloves, hats, sweets, colouring pens, and other essentials that so many of us take for granted.
You, who made a donation of €4 along with your shoebox and dropped it off at Cherrywood distribution centre in South Dublin, one of the many drop-off points around the country.
You did not realise that you had just contributed the two-millionth shoebox to Team Hope on what was the organisation’s 10th annual Christmas shoebox appeal.
Your special box was checked over and all safety requirements were met before it was sealed and loaded into a truck by the many volunteers who worked tirelessly over the busy festive period.
You are the person responsible for the ear-to-ear smile on a six-year-old girl’s face when she took your shoebox, which had travelled 2,870km from Dublin to Romania, into her hands.
A sense of delight, similar to that felt by a parent watching the sheer excitement emanate from their children on Christmas morning as they open their presents, was shared among the volunteers who travelled to Romania as they witnessed Aline open the all-important two-millionth shoebox.
A moment that has upsettingly never been experienced by far too many parents and children alike across the globe, and yet a moment that so many of us brush off as the norm without truly appreciating just how lucky we really are.
Receiving a gift like this is a rarity for so many children in need, many of whom will never have received a Christmas gift in their lives and will never have experienced any celebration of Christmas.
Aline, who lives with a foster family, is one of 31,565 Romanian children who had their shoeboxes delivered by Team Hope volunteers on their distribution trip to the Balkan country last month.
The shoeboxes bound for Romania were sent from distribution centres in Donegal, Tipperary, Dublin South, Leitrim, Waterford, and Sligo.
Aline is one of a total of 270,436 children affected by poverty across a number of different countries including Malawi, Burundi, Kenya, Ukraine, Belarus, Kosovo, and Albania, who received gifts from Ireland this year.
Team Hope Shoebox Appeal national manager Carol Hennessey was among the 10 people who travelled to Romania. She said that receiving the two-millionth box made Aline feel “so special”.
Just as she, along with every other child living in underdeveloped countries deserve to feel.
“That feeling is one that has been felt by all the children who have been gifted a shoebox over the years,” she said.
“Every shoebox has counted.”
So, here’s to you, all 270,436 of you, who sourced a shoebox and filled it with special gifts that now mean the world to the children who have received them.
All of you, who included a photo of your own family here in Ireland so children who received your box who may not have a family to call their own still felt a sense of home even from a strange and far away land.
All of you, who got their kids involved so that they too would be touched by the true spirit of Christmas — a time to think of others, share with others, care for others, and spark joy and happiness in others.
All of you, who have been the driving force behind that important sentiment and who have been involved in the successes that Team Hope has achieved over the last 10 years of the annual shoebox appeal.
Team Hope chief executive Peter Heaney expressed his gratitude to everyone who made 2019 a particularly rewarding year with record-breaking numbers taking part in the initiative.
“We are hugely grateful for the support we have received for the Christmas shoebox appeal.
“You have put a smile on 270,436 children’s faces. Thank you.”
To check where in the world your shoebox was sent this year, click here.