Wednesday 4 November 2015

Volunteering has wiped me out

As many of you know I'm currently in South Africa working with several charities and organisations as a volunteer for 5 weeks.

I lived in South Africa for 4 years, moving to Dubai in December 2014 and I'm so happy to be back home, even if it's just for a few weeks.

You can read more about the charity work I do by clicking the 'charity' link in my blog and here are a is a recent post about some of the work I did out here.

I've spent the last 2 weeks working with The Santa Shoebox Project a national charity that aims to collect and distribute 100,000 boxes country wide to vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

This is my 5th and final year of involvement with the charity as when I return to Dubai i will be working full time in a school and I won't be able to travel during the school term and unfortunately the 'drop off' days are in October and November.

In 2011 we collected and distributed 1,200 boxes

In 2012 we collected and distributed 3,300 boxes

In 2013 we collected and distributed 6,000 boxes

In 2014 we collected and distributed 7,000 boxes

In 2015 the boxes are still coming in but we're on target for 7000 boxes

The Santa Shoebox project is a year round job. We are all volunteers in Pretoria and we all give what time and money we can to support this charity. Some of us are involved in supporting the facilities the rest of the year with donations, teaching, building schools, etc.

We have 2 drop offs in Pretoria which are now both closed for this year and run over 2 days and 3 days for drop off.

The year starts in March when we visit facilities far and wide, covering 100's of kilometres, assisting facilities with registering online, making tough decisions as to which facilities we have to decline, collect and upload name lists, sex and age. We market the project, we collect donations, we contact cooperate donors, recruit volunteers, we meet monthly to discuss our progress. We have NO budget, we are all volunteers, sacrificing family life to ensure that every child in every facility we assist receive a santa shoebox.

For the drop off days we have to set up, this involves printing and writing labels, collecting fillers from the Stor_age unit in the Van from Ford South Africa, who both sponsor us. Laying the hall out, sorting the fillers before the public start to drop off.

We then process every single box, we add a PEP carrier bag who sponsor 85% of the operational costs from Cape Town, we check each and every box contains toiletries, clothing (the right size) a toy, educational supplies and sweets. We scan and pack every box into cartons ready for Laser Logisitics to collect and store until the delivery dates ready for the celebration.

The public don't see all of this, they see the box they drop at the already set up hall and that is the end of their involvement, unless they volunteer or attend a celebration day.

We then spend the next two days, cleaning, tidying, taking everything back to Stor_age, sourcing donors and making up the gaps for the people who pledged a box and failed to show and supervising Laser Logisitics collection of the cartons.

We are 158 boxes short of our target, plus our extras and boot magic for when we attend a facility to discover new children have joined or the kids from neighbouring houses 'pop along' in the hope of a gift from us.

Over the past three days I have worked from 8am till 10pm, I have cried with exhaustion, I've broken every finger nail to the bone, I have lifted and moved and numbered cartons to ensure everything is in place, I have swept floors, taken the trash out, I have written lists of the children's names who boxes we need to make up, I've collected late boxes from cooperates, I have contacted and arranged to collect individuals donors boxes who don't understand why we have deadlines. I haven't been doing all of this alone, well actually the last two days there has only been two of us and numbers started to dwindle on Sunday afternoon. I do understand I'm the only member either without a job or children to look after, but I do worry as to who will do all of this next year, when I'm not here.

This is my bedroom at one of the houses I'm staying at.

This is the coordinator and I sorting lists and organising pick ups and additional boxes late into the evenings.

I've drawn up a schedule for Stor-age to meet the other volunteers to tidy, sort and pack up the missing boxes over the next two weeks.

I get such fulfilment from this project and I cry every single time I realise that this will be my last year with them, it may be a few years before I come back to South Africa, even for a visit, I want to stay involved, carry on raising funds. I have just over 2 weeks until I return to Dubai, so I'm making the most of it, there will be Jam Jar sessions in the local bar, there will be visits to facilities for celebrations, I've driven 5 different vehicles so far, I've stayed in 3 different houses and even stopping in a caravan at a share house next week, as well as a few other friends as well.

Several of the volunteers are moving overseas or away from Pretoria, it's not going to be the same again and that also makes me sad, but I'll leave you with a picture of happiness, with my friends after a 12 hour day and promise to bring you more photos next week of the celebration days, jam jars and a visit to some of the facilities with people that I will forever hold close to my heart.


  1. You do wonderful work! Wish I could help or do more - but I am sure in years to come when my kids are older I can do more.

    1. Hi Cat, you do what you can and it is appreciated