Connection at Christmas
by Rachel and her mum
‘A donated bear wearing our school neckerchief. He was given by the children to accompany the shoeboxes to Romania and hopefully find a new home with a child there.’
The theme of the month for December is connection, which is somewhat appropriate for December, when many people are catching up with family and friends over Christmas, or remembering loved ones who are no longer with us. Christmas can be a challenging time for many of us for a number of reasons and we can often get caught up in things that don’t really matter – do we have the right crackers or enough presents? However, we can also find some time during Christmas to connect with those less fortunate than ourselves.
This blog is a joint effort between myself, Rachel and my mum, Sandra, who has, with the help of children at her school in Liverpool, donated 95 shoeboxes filled with goodies to disadvantaged children in Romania. In the last couple of months, every time I spoke to my mum, she gave me regular updates about how the appeal was going. I am so proud of all the effort she has put in and the way in which her kindness and generosity has fostered a sense of connection between her school in Liverpool and the recipients of the shoeboxes. I wanted everyone to hear the story:
‘When my daughter was a child, we packed a shoebox. We were not well off, but we had what we needed. When Christmas came round I always did my best to make sure she had what she wanted and she was never short of gifts to open. Sadly I knew that not all children were so fortunate so we chose some little treats and some essentials to brighten Christmas for a child just like her, but living in another part of the world.
School and Community connection
Fast forward a few years that little girl has grown up and I now work in a school in a deprived area. Although not well off themselves, these are caring and generous people and will willingly give to others. We have been giving shoeboxes at Christmas for several years now, this year I discovered Shoebox Appeal Liverpool run by a Romanian doctor who now lives in Liverpool, he collects shoeboxes full of toys, toiletries and treats and distributes them to the less fortunate children who live in his hometown.
I decided this year rather than ask people to fill a shoebox themselves,( as this can prove expensive), to ask people to contribute some items towards the boxes. So we placed large collecting boxes in the school staffroom, sent out fliers and put up posters, placed an empty, gift wrapped box in each classroom and of course we spoke to the children. We discovered what treasures we had within our school community – some did indeed fill a box with their own child and brought them in, often with a little Christmas card from the child. Many more sent in toys, stationery and bags of sweets! Several staff members brought in knitted hats, scarves and gloves made by their own mum’s. We discovered a teacher was married to a dentist who donated toothbrushes and toothpaste – more were donated by a Teaching Assistant’s mum who is a school nurse.
Several of us got together when the working day was over to wrap the boxes in santa paper, label them with the age and gender of the intended recipient and best of all fill them with gifts! One member of staff, a single mum, brought her own eleven year old daughter to help pack and the pleasure she derived was a joy to see. She exclaimed over little hair slides and homemade pencil cases, telling me how much she liked them and I know for sure she will have received a bulging stocking every year of her short life. She understood. She understood that these gifts were sent with love to children we will never meet. Children just like her.
Well the final date for delivering the boxes came and we contacted Dr John! We arranged to take the shoeboxes to him and he would store them until it was time for them to journey to Romania. We chose six children who had been particularly involved in some way with our shoebox appeal to help us and we set out to deliver them to John. They proudly carried those boxes to where they were being stored without a word of complaint, they met the person who would be distributing the gifts and the emotions were strong on both sides. I felt the children got so much from this simple act of giving and understood that they were children just like them, but in need of a little help.
I hope that the children who receive our 95 shoeboxes get as much joy from them as our children got from giving them.’
Shared humanity and connection
It’s lovely to see children expressing such kindness and understanding of our own shared humanity and connection. Let’s hope we all find opportunities for connection throughout Christmas and beyond. Thanks, mum, for sharing this story – you are an inspiration!