Schoolchildren are getting into the Christmas spirit this week, sending millions of gifts to needy children in Africa and Eastern Europe.
Little elves in Scoil Ghobnatan Primary School in Mallow, Co Cork have lovingly prepared more than 450 festive shoe boxes before dispatching them to Africa.
Each student made sure their gift had a personal touch, including favourite teddy bears, photos of their family and Christmas cards.
But the journey will not end there as pupils will track their globetrotting boxes — first stop the Netherlands, then onwards towards the African countries of Burundi, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Malawi.
Niall Barry, executive director of Team Hope, the charity behind the Christmas Shoebox Appeal, explained how important the presents are to the “forgotten” children of Africa and Eastern Europe.
“It’s not just about what’s in the box. I’ve seen kids in Africa with their shoe boxes — they thought they’d been forgotten, that nobody knew they existed. They can’t believe that someone they’ll never meet could care enough about them to give them a gift. That’s dignity you’re giving them, dignity and respect.”
Schools, workplaces, and families across the country were asked to wrap a shoe box with Christmas paper, fill it with gifts for a child, attach €4 for postage and bring it to any one of the 300 drop-off points.
In the receiving country, the Team Hope network of partners delivers the shoe box gifts into the hands of children in hospitals, schools, shelters, churches, orphanages, community centres and family homes.
Mr Barry said: “Our Christmas Shoebox Appeal helps bring joy, laughter and hope to children living on the margins of society, victims of war, disease or poverty in some of the world’s most underdeveloped countries.”
Scoil Ghobnatan principal Michael Walsh said the project has created a sense of awareness for the children. “They’ve learned a lot from it, but in a fun way. It’s great to be able to give something back.”
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