INTERVIEW - Franziska, Weihnachten im Schuhkarton, Switzerland.
Christmas is coming faster than we think, and while some start making virtual lists of presents, decorations or food plans*, others are already opening their heart and timetables to prepare presents for others.
I had approached Franziska a year ago as I totally melted, discovering “Weihnachten im Schuhkarton”. It reminded me of the Ramadan boxes we offered tour building's workers in Dubai, with the same principles: pack in a shoebox the necessary items for a happy daily life. It does not have to be big, but it has to be useful and meaningful.
It made therefore complete sense for OUTSIDE THE BOX to give this project space. Unfortunately we were too late in the year to meaningfully share information about the ongoing volunteering work, so we agreed with Franziska to catch up in 2020 and give it another try. We are now sincerely pleased to have her onboard this year, and hope that this will make readers support the project and/or start their own initiatives locally.
Merry Christmas, everyone <3
*We, at OUTSIDE THE BOX, only wonder when it will be cold enough to pull our ugly xmas sweaters out of the its carton.
Welcome Franziska on OUTSIDE THE BOX and thank you for spending the time to answer some questions for us! First of all, can you please introduce yourself in a few words ?
My name is Franziska and I moved to Switzerland in 2014. I am 30 years old and live together with my fiancé in Basel-Land. I love exploring Switzerland’s hiking places, cycling and flea markets 😊 I love how simple items can get a second life by giving them to someone who can use it.
Tell us now a little more about Weihnachten im Schuhkarton!
How did the project start and what are the principles?
“Weihnachten im Schuhkarton” or in English speaking countries known as “Operation Christmas Child” - a project of Samaritan's Purse - has delivered 178+ million gift-filled shoeboxes to boys and girls around the world until today. It is the world’s largest gift campaign for children in need.
Billy Graham joined Samaritan’s Purse in 1979 as President and Chairman with the aim to help people in need and despair. In 1993, Billy Graham’s organisation joined “Operation Christmas Child” – created by Dave Cooke and his wife Gill for children in Romania. Each November thousands of churches, schools, groups and individual donors prepare and collect shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies, personal items, and other small gifts.
The shoeboxes filled with love and great gifts will be distributed to children in need around the world - regardless of worldview or religious belief, ethnicity, or gender. Children who have never received a gift before will be shown unconditional love and hope. These shoeboxes can make an impact on children’s lives and their future. The campaign sends more than a moment of happiness.
How did you get involved, and what have you learned from participating as a volunteer?
I packed my very first shoebox at the time I lived in Vienna in 2013. In our office we decided to contribute every year to a different organisation. I would not have thought that “Weihnachten im Schuhkarton” will become such a big part of my life.
When I moved to Basel one year later, I found out by coincidence that the Swiss main collecting point is based there. I packed my shoebox and contacted the responsible person at this main collecting point that volunteers also call “Christmas factory”. I was impressed by tables full of school supplies, toys, clothes and so many dedicated volunteers who checked every shoebox before it was sent to the children. I decided to stay that evening and help checking shoeboxes. I returned the following evenings after my working days and got addicted to checking shoeboxes, refill items that are missing and get the shoeboxes ready for shipping.
My timing was just perfect when I entered the “Christmas Factory” for the first time as it was the beginning of the official packing week. It is amazing to see the many lovely filled shoeboxes and it is heart-warming to see the joyful faces of children from videos of the distribution trips who receive their first present ever.
Who are the other people involved in the team?
Liane Kunzelmann has been the Swiss collecting point manager for more than 13 years. She has a huge network and knows how to connect people.
The team around her consists of many volunteers who have various talents. Each contribution is of enormous importance. Some volunteers are great at crocheting, knitting, sewing, others prepare shoeboxes by wrapping them in nice wrapping paper. Still others love to encourage people to pack their own shoeboxes, tell them about the organization and the mission, distribute flyers or collect donations.
Those volunteers who accept packed shoeboxes during the official collecting week in November are also important. They make sure to accept the packed shoeboxes and transport them to the main collecting point in Basel in time.
How can people be involved: what shall they buy, how shall they pack the presents, where do they need to deliver the box?
At first, our aim is to encourage people to pack shoeboxes at home or at work. You can easily arrange “shoebox packing parties” with your friends and family or as a team and client event at work. The idea is to only add new or self-made gifts to the shoebox.
You choose to pack a gift for a boy or girl between 2-4 years, 5-9 years or 10-14 years. Some committed people pack more than one shoebox per year as they want to give presents to every age range.
There is a list of categories that every shoebox for every child at all ages need to contain:
Hygiene items: toothbrush / toothpaste is a must
Clothing – something warm to wear, e.g. beanie, scarf, gloves
Toys – a “WOW”-gift
Candy, e.g. milk chocolate, gummy bears – NO NUTS!
Greeting card – makes the present more personal
Other ideas can be found online.
This year’s official collecting week is 9 – 16 November. During that week, the shoeboxes can be brought to the acceptance points – this can be private addresses, shops, hotels…
If you are interested to become a collecting point and make sure that the packed shoeboxes make their way to Basel by mid-November, contact us: Wisschweiz[at]bluewin.ch
What happens then to the boxes? Where are they sent to, who will receive them?
“Weihnachten im Schuhkarton” is a world-wide initiative. Beginning of December, the Swiss shoeboxes will be sent to Eastern Europe, mainly Romania, Hungary, Ukraine. Winter seasons are enormously freezing there. Therefore, we keep an eye on adding warm clothes to the shoeboxes. Around Christmas time you will find the first official videos online from distribution trips, smiling children who can’t believe that there is someone out there who thought of so many nice gifts for them.
(This is me, right behind the children – at one of the distribution events of shoeboxes in Romania in 2019. The children know that something special will happen that day and put on their best clothes.)
Anything else you'd wish to share with our readers?
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And if you are interested to contribute – you are talented in making clothes or cuddly toys, you want to volunteer in November in the “Christmas factory” by checking shoeboxes, you want to distribute flyers in your neighbourhood and encourage them to pack shoeboxes, you are talented in fundraising.... – write us an email: Wisschweiz[at]bluewin.ch
Pics/Courtesy of Weihnachten im Schuhkarton and Franzi