Getting a Team Hope shoebox as a child was the 'highlight of the year'
“You’re giving someone something who doesn’t have that much."
Maggie Ivanov was about three or four when she received her first shoebox from Team Hope.
She doesn't remember every single thing about the day, but the memories she does have are fond.
They're of heading down to her local church with her older brother Christian and parents Demi and Ivan, and receiving a present of a shoebox filled with toys and clothes, along with all of the other children in the area.
"It was the highlight of the year because everybody got something," she says.
"Some people who filled the boxes wrote cards and they sent family photos, so it was nice to think that there’s someone there in another country, thinking of you.”
Maggie grew up in Ruse, a city on the Romanian Bulgaria border. She moved to Ireland with her family when she was 13, eventually settling in Co. Wicklow.
Now 16-years-old, Maggie is encouraging her classmates in Greystones' Temple Carrig School to get involved in the annual Team Hope drive.
She says that last year, she and her friends helped out in the local church when the shoeboxes came in, sorting through the presents, and adding in extra toys and clothes if necessary.
"We fill our own boxes in school too," she says. "With something to write with, something to wear, something to wash with, and something to wow.
“You’re giving someone something who doesn’t have that much, and for them to have something else at that time of year is a good feeling.”
2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the Team Hope Shoebox Appeal, a drive that encourages children to think about those less fortunate than them around the festival season.
The boxes are collected across the country and eventually distributed to children in need in Africa and eastern Europe.
This year, the charity are hoping to collect their two millionth box - a major milestone that can only be achieved by the kindness of those who fill the boxes, and the selflessness of those who volunteer with the charity each year.
One of those people is Debbie Maha from Westmeath.
For the past few years, she has been working with Team Hope coordinator Alison Murphy, sorting through boxes before they get sent off - and even doing a bit of busking with her ukulele group to drum up support for the drive.
At the end of last month, she and five others took to Longford Shopping Centre in aid of the cause. They sang, they played, and they gave out leaflets and posters encouraging the public to get involved and fill their own shoeboxes.
“It’s a bit of fun," she says. "The music gets people’s attention and it gets a bit of traction that way.
"It’s a chance to talk to people, get the message out there. A lot of people don’t actually know what the charity is so it’s a great way to tell people what we’re doing it for and about all the wonderful work Team Hope do.