Since moving to Hong Kong I have become more and more involved in charity. One charity that I am particularly passionate about is called Box of Hope. It only runs in the lead up to Christmas, however it has a regional impact on children around South-East Asia. As much as I believe in the cause and the benefit of helping thousands of children who would otherwise be forgotten, the added benefit of this charity is my children can also get involved directly.
Every year my sprogs and I discuss how privileged they are. They have food, a place to live, clean clothes, freedom, schooling, the luxury of discovery and TOYS. We discuss what it would be like to not have toys. To not have school. To not have food whenever we wanted. My children can’t truly understand the poverty or hardships many children go through, but they can appreciate the life they have and through this realisation they have developed the yearly desire to also help children who don’t have anything. They have seen children in poverty on some of our overseas trips. In particular Bethany remembers vividly an experience where children in Malaysia were playing with sticks and dirt; Their only toilet was a fly-infested hole inside a wooden outhouse. These are the children she imagines when she makes her boxes.
How do we collect for and make our boxes?
When we travel we collect our extra unused soaps, combs, and toothbrushes from the hotels we stay. We make daddy do the same when he goes on business trips.
When we buy shoes we keep the shoeboxes. Closer to the time I also go and ask some of the shoe stores close by for any spare boxes. Some refuse and others are grateful to be rid of their excess boxes.
When we fly, if the kids are given children’s goodies on the plane we keep those as they often have jigsaws, puzzles, pens or pencils and colouring books.
The children decide what they would like to have in a box if it was the only gift they were receiving. This year I went over to Sham Shui Po with some friends and we brought goodies to fill our boxes in bulk. Buying in bulk meant we got a lot of toys, games, toiletries and soft toys for a very reasonable price. It meant we could spend more and therefore make more boxes to share with more children. Bethany wanted a giraffe theme for her boxes and I was delighted to be able to get giraffe soft toys, giraffe hair combs as well as giraffe writing books.
Every box was to have something to cuddle, something to play with, something for outdoors (eg ball or skipping rope), something to draw or write with, a puzzle as well as essential toiletries (soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb or brush, facecloth, small paper tissues).
We even held a Box of Hope kids party so the kids could make their boxes with friends. With goodies piled high the kids made box after box with the hope the child who would receive it would love it as much as my kids did when they created them.
As a group, the kids at our party made 28 boxes this year. The sprogs were delighted with their efforts.
Of course once the boxes are made, the process doesn’t end there. I got to use my car as Santa’s sleigh as the presents were taken to Box of Hope central to be checked.
A lot of people ask me why the boxes have to be checked. The reason for this is not everyone understands the instructions for creating a box. Sometimes you end up with boxes with only soap in them. Others might only have a box of pencils. Some have second hand or broken toys in them. Sometimes people include liquids (which aren’t allowed to be shipped internationally) or clothing that can’t be shipped to certain countries. Can you imagine if a child opened a box and all it contained was 6 bars of soap while the child next to them got a box full of toys and colouring pencils as well as their soap?
Over the past couple of years I have volunteered to help check the boxes with ladies from Ladies Circle Hong Kong, and this year was no exception. Loaded down with extra soaps and toothpastes (things that seem to be missing the most) I headed in to Box of Hope in Central to help with the checking process.
It is an incredible experience to be confronted with the generosity of Hong Kong people directly. An ever expanding wall of beautifully coloured shoe boxes kept us busy. It would ebb and grow during the week of checking as boxes were checked off only to be replaced by new batches of unchecked boxes as more and more ‘sleighs’ rolled in from various schools and companies around Hong Kong. We would leave one day with the wall freshly exposed only to find new boxes hiding the wall from view the next time we came to help.
The idea for checking is that the boxes remain as intact as possible, adding only those things that are missing if needed with the goal to make a pile of perfect boxes that every child will be able to find enjoyment from. There is nothing more satisfying than opening a box and discovering it is already perfect. Those boxes are simply closed back up and placed in a pile where they are then packed into shipping boxes to go to various destinations around Asia or within Hong Kong and Macau.
I love that for my family Christmas is no longer just about ourselves. Even now my children have started collecting for the boxes they will make in 2014. It is a small thing to help others, but it has both a global impact, and a personal satisfaction to it that makes life rewarding.
Do you (and your children) do anything to benefit those less privileged during the festive end of the year?