Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal
Written by Michelle Duffy - February 2020
Last December, Senior Client Executive Michelle Duffy got the opportunity to meet some of the amazing children who are recipients of the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal when she travelled with Team Hope to Romania. Here she gives us a heartwarming account of her time spent with what she describes as the client equiviant of a hug.
It’s Christmas Eve. My mother hands me a plate of carrots for Rudolf and a small glass of Guinness for Santa. The house is warm, cosy and I’m finishing off decorating my letter. ‘What are you hoping for from Santa?’ asked my Dad. ‘Something nice and a surprise’ I reply. It’s the same line I’ve been reeling off for years. Luckily for me, I was good that year and got far more than I deserved. Little was I thinking of other eight year olds around the world who would be spending Christmas hoping for the most basic of things – like gloves to keep their hands warm or a toy to call their own. Simple wishes that may have gone unanswered. The Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal answers those calls.
The Appeal was one of the first projects I worked on when I joined Walsh:PR. I remember at the time my colleague describing Team Hope as the client equivalent of a hug. I soon discovered this was down to the people involved and the difference their work makes. Part of my role in supporting the national media campaign is sharing the rich stories and efforts of volunteers who make the Appeal happen. From East Wall to Achill and from Mizen to Malin Head – schools, families and friends work tirelessly, packing shoeboxes to bring a little bit of joy to children less fortunate.
Last December, I was delighted to be invited on a shoebox distribution trip to Romania to experience first-hand the difference a shoebox makes to the child. Having listened to stories from volunteers who have been on distribution trips before, I thought I knew what poverty was. Unfortunately, the reality of what I saw, heard and felt on my trip was more than I could have imagined. We visited orphanages, churches and community centres doing their best to look after the vulnerable and families in their homes who were so cut off from society that they would otherwise be forgotten about.
Each child had a different story, a different need and a different challenge to face. Watching children excitedly open their shoeboxes was bittersweet. There are no words to describe the wonderment, giddiness and smiles of the children waiting to find out which box would become theirs. It was a spectacular experience. One child who left a big impression on me was a beautiful four-year-old called Denisa. I was told that she is likely to share a bed with at least three of her five siblings and will probably never go to school. Children as young as four are instead expected to collect plastic. As I looked at Denisa, my heart swelled with sadness. I couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine that her dainty, little hands that should be playing with dolls or clapping games with her friends, would instead be put to work.
In particular, it broke my heart when basic items such as a bar of soap or toothpaste were met with the same awe and appreciation as a football jersey or a barbie doll. They were luxuries that few children ever had. The experience made me reflect on all of the things I take for granted. It opened my eyes to the need in our world and how much more could be done. There are simply not enough shoeboxes for everyone.