I’m feeling rather tingly as I write this, the ‘Tuesday Chats With…’ post before Christmas.
It’s a super special one and a super inspiring one today, because it features the wonderfully inspiring Kirsten Dewar from the famed ‘Shoebox of Love’ programme. Not only is Kirsten the subject of my last Tuesday Chat post before Christmas, but she’s also my last portrait session before Christmas, and the last for the year, before I head off for the festive holidays!

I feel particularly fortunate to have photographed Kirsten yesterday too, because her own personal story is, itself, inspiring, emotive and motivational! I was nearly in tears yesterday as she chatted easily about her journey this year. But more about that when I blog her shoot next year…

In the meantime, I’ll let Kirsten explain her story which is why she’s featured on today’s post…


 

Please share a bit of your story leading up to where you are today…

I never dreamed that the Shoebox of Love Programme (commonly known as ‘Shoebox’) would grow and evolve from a once-off event for 150 children in 2006 to a fully-fledged NGO that has seen more than 28 tons in Christmas goodies (as well as blankets, books, care packages) distributed to orphaned and vulnerable children and pensioners in the eight years since. Shoebox has proven itself over and over. How better to demonstrate the spirit of the festive season than by giving a gift to those who constitute the most vulnerable and neediest members of our society? It’s our favouritest time of the year 🙂

Like the rest of the committee (Giselle, Carl, Tracey, Anton and Jill) I have a full-time job, which I juggle alongside my Shoebox and family commitments. It’s a wild ride – not without its challenges, but one that has enriched our lives beyond measure. The hard work, late nights, all the logistics, playing hunt-the-box, giving up our weekends for pretty much all of November and most of December every year – pales into nothing when you see how much happiness a Shoebox of Love brings.

‘It’s difficult to explain but to see a child just stare at a brightly-wrapped box on their lap which has THEIR name on that is THEIRS, without showing the slightest signs of opening it, is something we can never become accustomed to. I know that a present for me, is mine. Some children just want to experience having a box that is a gift to THEM and just bask in that moment by looking at the closed box (I really don’t think we can quite understand how they feel). They have trouble comprehending that the gift is THEIRS and not something they have to share or will be taken away from them later. After encouraging the child to see what they have received and what’s inside the box, one can see that they still can’t believe that all those lovely things are for them and no one else. To be treated to a box full of things which are seen as a luxury to them, but basic items for us – it’s all just too much to comprehend. My heart breaks for these children. We can’t truly understand what these Shoeboxes mean to them. On the other side of the coin, it’s wonderful to see the absolute excitement of children who take turns to open their box while their friends watch, “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” over what their friend has received. They share in one another’s joy and are excited for one another. At our end of year function last year, I asked one of the girls why she hadn’t opened her shoebox. She had a big grin with eyes wide and said something along the lines of “Ek gaan dit alleen by die huis oopmaak. Juffrou, ek is so opgewonde. Ek wens dié gevoel sal nooit ophou nie.” In addition to seeing to the children’s gifts at the end of the year, Operation Shoebox has been wonderful in securing other sponsorship for the Anna Foundation. Through our connection over the past two years, we have received ad hoc donations towards our programmes as well as donations in kind, all through their contacts and funders. Money towards purchasing books, finances towards our children’s year-end event and transporting the shoeboxes to Stellenbosch, donation of a brand new printer, faxer and scanner and plasma screen TV just to mention a few. These donations all make a tremendous difference to the day to day running of our organisation and we’re extremely grateful for the on-going support shown by Operation Shoebox. Thank you so much’ – Carolyn Clark, on behalf of the Anna Foundation

‘The Pebbles Project would like to thank Operation Shoebox for the wonderful gifts that they so kindly give to all our children each year. The children that Pebbles support come from very poor families and their shoebox is often the only gift that they will receive during the year. Many of the children have said that their shoeboxes are the highlight of their year. We would like to say a huge thank you to Operation Shoebox for not only putting the biggest, happiest smiles on our children’s’ faces, but more importantly, for making them feel that somewhere in the world there is a person who thinks they are important and special enough to put together such a wonderful gift for them. Besides the shoeboxes that we receive from Operation Shoebox, they have also donated brand new books to our library, helped to obtain a donation of blankets from a sponsor as well as assisted with funding and volunteers for our annual Christmas parties. We cannot thank the Shoebox team enough for their can-do attitude and their willingness to always try and help where they can…’ – Marileze Buys for Pebbles Project

‘I do not know how to explain how important you are to Abuphumeleli. Every year I know that my children will be well dressed and beautyfull .You are the best ever. And from her kids: We humbly thank you for all those years you give us clothing, shoes and presents. You make us feel loved just like children with parents. We are not feel neglected anymore because of you Shoebox. We are happy to have you as our sponsor because we know you always be there to make us beautiful on Christmas day. Our hearts are happy…’ – Mama Kass and the children from Abuphumeleli Home of Safety

‘The difference Operation Shoebox makes in the world can be measured in the smiles of all the children who are reminded each year that someone cares. Shoebox provides a bridge for ordinary people to spend a little time and money to make a difference’. – Barbara Ferreira, on behalf of iKhaya La Themba (Regina’s Hope)

‘Shoebox – with which I have been involved for more than five years, meant initially giving some of my time to a worthy cause, but in the end I was the one to receive the greatest gift. My 10-year old daughter Leah has been involved from the “buying the gifts and wrapping the box” stage, through sorting, to attending the Christmas parties and seeing the joy in the children’s eyes. Ever since, she has made a point of storing toys and clothes to give away and is far more aware of the blessings she receives every day – thank you for this valuable lesson, Shoebox!’ – Gene Strauss

‘The work that the Operation Shoebox snowflakes do has inspired me to initiate projects of my own. They inspire me to be more socially responsible and to live their philosophy that a single snowflake can cause an avalanche …’ – Wendy Billimore Hinson

‘Being part of Shoebox has restored my faith in humanity.’ – Michel Desfontein

‘Last week when I came home from work my sister’s child, she is a single parent and unemployed, came to me with a big smile. A smile I cannot explain. I have never seen my nephew this happy before. He ran to me with a shoebox in his hand and told me that good people gave this to them. I took the box and looked inside, saw many items but one thing that broke my heart was his name personalised on his facecloth. The tears just came running down my face. He could not understand why his aunty is suddenly so sad. Is it something that he has done? I had to quickly explain to him that it has nothing to do with him but that I am extremely happy for him. I did not believe in angels on planet earth but I have experienced it now. The couple who gave him this box wished him a blessed Christmas and told him to keep being strong. I did not know what is was to have a present on Christmas. We use to walk bare feet to school. Here angels come to our children’s rescue and share their hearts with them. I am still very emotional while writing this letter. Love you all sooooohhhh much. It is not all in vain. His older sister got a beautiful dress and she can now wear it to church on Christmas. Thank you all for your selfless love … ‘

It’s an honour and privilege to be able to channel so much good to those who need it most. I can’t begin to express our gratitude to the thousands and thousands of people who support us every year, and who make what we do possible. At Shoebox we often talk about a single snowflake causing an avalanche because it’s a sentiment that rings so very true. Every Shoeboxer, every Shoebox of Love, we can never say thank you enough for creating eight years of Christmas magic. Shoeboxers rock

1. Something that I’m…
…scared of…
Spiders.
2. Something I wish…
…I could change…
How wrapped up in themselves some people are. It’s all about me, me, me, and never a thought about all the blessings they have, or how they could use them to make the world a better place.
…for on a daily basis…
A winning Lotto jackpot. I’d love to be able to make Shoebox my full-time job.
…people would…
Use what they have, where they are to do good. As the Arch says, all those little bits added together are what will overwhelm the world.
3. A lesson…
…I learned, which I’d share, is…
When someone shows you who they truly are, believe it.
4. The ‘someone’ I…
…turn to for advice is…
If it is a head decision, my dad. If it is a heart decision, my sister.
…would return as, in a later life is…
A cat in the Dewar household.
…would give my last Rolo to…
Carl, my fiancé. Except it would be my last Jelly Tot, not a Rolo 🙂
…would love to be stuck in an elevator with is…
Kahlil Gibran, author of the Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
…have been most inspired by…
There are too many to mention. All of them have one single thing in common, and that is that they have risen above their circumstances and made something of themselves through guts, determination and sheer hard work.
5. The place I …
…dream of visiting is…
Copenhagen at Christmas
…am most happy is…
home.
6. Things that…
…educate me…
Books. I’m a voracious reader and have discovered untold worlds and experiences inside the cover of a good book.
…entertain me…
Sarcasm, word-play, puns and clever juxtapositions.
…irritate/challenge me…
Cape Town drivers 😉
…calm me…
A hot bath, a good book, an endless supply of coffee.
…keep me productive…
To-do lists. And coffee.
7. Things that make me go…
…WTF?…
Text-speak, a lack of attention to detail, careless grammar and punctuation.
…lol!…
I look for humour wherever I can find it. Laughter keeps us young.
8. My reason for…
…smiling is…
contagious. Try it and see.
9. My approach to…
…life is…
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
…fashion is…
it applies to other people. I’m perfectly happy in my trusty blue jeans, thank you.
…health and beauty is…
Important. Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.
10. My perfect….
…day starts with…
Coffee.
…movie role is…
Eugene Simonett in Pay it Forward.

 

Abigail k Photography - Kirsten 2
Abigail k Photography - Kirsten 4
Abigail k Photography - Kirsten 3
Abigail k Photography - Kirsten 5
Abigail k Photography - Kirsten 1

 

Website
www.operationshoebox.co.za
Where can folks follow you online?
Facebook Page
www.facebook.com/operation.shoebox
Twitter
twitter.com/Shoe_Box_Girl

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