Again through a conversation with Lauren, I learned about the Santa Shoebox project. It's a wonderful charitable effort to provide hundreds of thousands of Christmas gifts to needy children across South Africa. As soon as Lauren told me about it I knew I wanted to sign up. What makes this program so special and unique is that when you register on the website you choose the gender and age of the child or children that you want to provide for. Then, for each child chosen, you find a shoe box, decorate it in a festive manner and fill it with gifts specific to that child based on age and gender. There are some items that you have to include in the box such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. Can we just pause here to reflect on how sad it is that these children do not have these items and that they will be happy to receive them?
Here are some of the challenges. First, you have to have a shoe box. I hate clutter so I don't have any. Second (and most alarming) you have to decorate the box in such a way that the child who gets the box isn't looking at the gorgeous boxes all of his or her friends received and wondering what's wrong with his box. Three, you have to creatively buy and pack the gifts so that they will fit in the box. I already know I am going to buy way too much stuff and that I will not be able to fit it all and the lid will be falling off. Note, you don't attach the lid to the box as the volunteers from the charity need to be able to inspect the box. So I can't pack the box the way I would pack my own suitcase - by sitting on it.
I want to reiterate that I really, really want to do this. I have been thinking about this project like crazy since I signed up. Having worked with the kids who live in Diepsloot I know these kids are going to be so excited to get these boxes (even if poorly decorated) and I also know that these might be the only gifts that they receive this year.
Getting boxes isn't that hard. I can either buy shoes for myself (tempting but not really the point of the exercise), go to shoe stores and see if they have any extra boxes or buy plastic shoe boxes. The third option is a great excuse to visit a store called Plasticland which is an organizers paradise. They have every kind of box and storage item you can imagine. A plastic box is actually a good idea because the Santa shoe box website says that the child will likely keep the box. Remember that these kids don't have their own rooms and likely don't have their own bed so having a box where they can keep their personal treasures is a big deal for them.
While I think I am good at fashion and home decorating, I am not good at drawing, painting, crafting or wrapping gifts. I am also not good at baking. Even when making the simple lekker pudding recipe I was only about 2 minutes away from a smoke filled house. Any project that I take on that needs to come out looking a certain way is usually a major disappointment. Whenever I need to wrap a gift I try to get Mr. Deep to do it because he is very meticulous and all gifts that he wraps end up looking great. No, there is not a chance I can get Mr. Deep to agree to decorate these boxes for me.
So now you are thinking that I should just come up with a very simple concept for the box designs, something that I know I can handle and can make look o.k. with not a lot of angst. And you're right, that is what I should do but here is what is wrong with me. My imagination does not match my ability. I have these awesome ideas (artistic concepts really) about how I can decorate these boxes in a most creative manner and I am going to try to recreate what I have in my head. This means I need to buy at least one extra plastic box because at least one is sure to come out looking like complete crap and I will need to start over. This is the point when the crying might occur.
I signed up to provide boxes to a nine year old boy named Tshepo and an 11 year old girl, named Samkelisiwe (before dropping off the box you affix a coded label to it to ensure it goes to the right child.) I chose the nine year old boy because in working with kids in grade 3 and 4 through Edu Fun, I think I know what a nine year old boy would like - answer; pretty much anything. I signed up to give a box to an 11 year old girl because I apparently had a moment of temporary insanity. I have no idea what an 11 year old girl would like. I only know what I would have liked when I was 11 and I'm pretty sure this girl does not want the Journey Escape album on cassette or pink legwarmers. So I have to give this one some thought. While Christmas is a way off, I have to drop off the completed boxes on October 29th. The charity needs time to check all of the boxes and get everything organized before they begin to deliver.
I will document my creative process, box decoration and gift selection in my next post. The good, the bad and the ugly.