PUPILS from almost 60 schools in North Kerry and West Limerick will show their charitable side next week by donating thousands of gift-filled shoeboxes as part of Team Hope's Christmas Shoebox Appeal.
The charity involves community volunteers dedicating their time to bettering the lives of children in Africa and Eastern Europe by organising and sending shoeboxes full of gifts donated by schools, businesses and the general public.
In the North Kerry and West Limerick area, approximately 20 volunteers get involved to help with the organising, collection, and checking of the shoeboxes in their local Team Hope warehouse, according to Area Co-ordinator Margaret Kennedy.
Over 3,500 shoeboxes were sorted in Listowel alone last year in what was an incredibly warm-hearted response from the public.
"Last year, we sorted 3,630 shoeboxes from schools, businesses and individuals at our warehouse in Listowel and we felt so proud of all our hard work on the day that the lorry came to collect them," Margaret said.
The concept of the shoebox appeal is simple: Wrap a shoebox with Christmas paper, fill it with children's gifts, and drop it off to the collection point at the Christian Fellowship Centre, Listowel by November 11 next.
"We spend about three weeks sorting the boxes so it is hard work, but we all realise how special it is at the end when the boxes are collected for shipping," Margaret added.
Margaret recalled her trip to a poverty-stricken area of Croatia three years ago, where she personally handed shoeboxes to children.
"We saw a family of 11, with children aged from three months to 18 years, whose mother was dying of a brain tumour and had more visible tumours on her arms.
"The joy they showed at just the smallest teddy bear was incredible and it was heart-warming to see the older girls share gifts such as clothing and jewellery with their sick mother. It was truly touching," she said.
For more information on how to donate a shoebox, visit www.teamhope.ie or call Margaret on (087) 9462358.