“You know some of these kids’ faces light up when they pull out a toothbrush and toothpaste. They are so grateful for every single thing in their little box.”
When Tracey speaks about Operation Shoebox, you can tell it is more than just a side project for her – it is a matter of the heart. Although she has been part of the “shoebox” team for a few years now, this is the first year that she has taken the reigns completely. Established in 2006, this non-profit organisation delivers boxes of essentials and specially selected gifts to children’s organisations and old age homes in the Western Cape.
To date, Operation Shoebox has benefitted over 34 000 children and pensioners. This is an amazing feat for little organisation run by a team of 6 voluntary staff members who all have full time employment in other spheres.
The boxes are filled with things like toothpaste but also items for the pure enjoyment of the receiver. Tracey shares that her favourite thing about the project is the fact that people are not only given what they need, but what they want. “It’s so special because I’m not treating you as a charity case, I am just giving you something that is special to you. It will belong to you,” she says, adding “It’s the idea that somebody did this especially for you – they picked you.”
Over the years she has thoroughly enjoyed seeing the joy on children’s faces and watching their reactions to the boxes. “I remember one year there was a little girl that had gotten a Barbie doll, she sat, I’ll never forget, on her bum on the ground and cradled it in her arm…” she takes a moment to compose herself, adding, “She just stared at it like it was the most amazing thing she had ever seen.”
That incident happened about four years ago, and every year more stories are added. Like that of Aunty Rosy, a lady around 90 years of age who got up and made an elaborate speech thanking Operation Shoebox. “She was so special, I am sure I still have those photos somewhere!”
The beneficiaries are organisations which has established relationship with Operation Shoebox over a number of years. Tracey shares that the relationship is something that they value and she tries to check in with the staff members of the various organisations at regular intervals. There are a number of different beneficiaries, including The Anna Foundation and Bezwini Centre for children with disabilities. Operation Shoebox is discerning about which organisations to partner with, making sure that that boxes are really benefitting those in need.
A few of us at Yellow Door have been involved with Operation Shoebox in our personal capacities over the years. One of our founders, Emma has pledged a shoebox every year since 2012! We decided that it was high time we got more involved with a cause that we feel strongly about, so are giving input on their marketing and creating content for social media. If you would like to join us in getting involved, read all about it in the section below.
How to be part of Operation Shoebox
The process is simple:
- Go to the Operation Shoebox website.
- Choose the name child or elderly person from the list and pledge to fill a shoebox.
- Look out for the email from Operation Shoebox confirming your registration and providing guidelines for what to include in your box.
- Make sure to drop your shoebox at one of the drop offs closest to you before 31 October.
Please adhere to the guidelines for boxes set out on their site. Operation Shoebox have distributed boxes for many years and any requests made are done so for specific reasons.
If you are unable to fill a box yourself, why not fill one as a family or group of friends? Better yet, have an office packing party and pack a box or four together. We guarantee it will be tons of fun.
Make sure to visit the Operation Shoebox website to pledge and find a drop off site near you.
Your little gesture could make a big difference to someone’s Christmas this year!