“Elated” doesn’t come close to describing how Alison Murphy felt on Wednesday morning last as she watched a team of volunteers nudge the last of 7,036 shoeboxes into a container that should in the coming days begin the long journey to Africa.
“It was jam-packed,” says Alison, who co-ordinates the Team Hope Christmas shoebox appeal in Westmeath and Longford.
“In fact they had to re-open the last carton and put the final shoeboxes in one by one.”
The haul of boxes prepared this year is the greatest ever sent from this area.
The container is destined for Malawi. There, local Team Hope volunteers will unpack the cartons, and arrange distribution to needy children who will probably receive no present other than the shoebox packed for them in this country.
And the boxes will not disappoint as every single one is checked before going, to ensure it contains ‘the four Ws’ – something to write with, something to wash with, something to wear, and something to ‘wow’ the youngster.
Some of the boxes come to Alison and her volunteers wrapped and packed, but many are filled by the volunteers using items donated to the project, or items they have collected themselves; or items they have bought from funds donated.
The statistics are mind-blowing: Alison, says by way of example, that on her shopping list this year were 2,000 copybooks and 2,500 pencils.
Alison Murphy of Team Hope waiting to have the 7,036th shoebox placed in the container that is going to Africa.
“I want to thank every boy, every girl; every mum and dad; every teacher; every individual that either donated shoeboxes or supplies so we could fill the boxes,” said Alison, who took two weeks off work to check, top up and fill boxes, together with a hard-working team of volunteers who were with her for that mammoth task.
“The firm Robotics and Drives let us use their warehouse at Forest Park, and without that, we couldn’t have pulled this together. They also allocated some of their staff to help us load the truck.”
Also helping load the truck were some of Alison’s HSE colleagues.
This year, the area has supplied 636 boxes more than last year – but already, Alison’s brain is beginning to focus on the collection of items for next year and she knows others are also already looking ahead.
“Whenever I go shopping, I pick up a few extra tubes of toothpaste for example,” she says, suggesting that it may also suit others to pick up soaps, toothbrushes or writing materials over the course of the year.
Knitting fans can also contribute by knitting little beany hats or gloves for the children, as even in Africa, the nights can be quite cold.
Also welcome would be underwear – but obviously, it needs to be new.
Items can be stored by individuals until next autumn, when the appeal will begin again.