The Cork primary school leading the charge at this year's Christmas Shoebox Appeal 1 month ago

The Cork primary school leading the charge at this year's Christmas Shoebox Appeal

"In giving, we receive" is Scoil Ghobnatan's motto.

And although it's applicable all year round, the emblem is particularly relevant in the later months as the seasons change and Christmas looms.

Since 2014, the Co. Cork primary school has dedicated a considerable amount of time and energy to ensuring that their own kids aren't going to be the only ones receiving presents this year.

In fact, they've made it their mission to make 50o+ children's Christmases that little bit brighter ever year - through the simple act of filling a shoebox full of gifts, clothes, and toys.

School principal Michael Walsh tells Her that Scoil Ghobnatan linked up with Team Hope's Shoebox Appeal due to the charity's focus on children.

He says that the idea came about when one of their teachers, Nollaig Murphy, came back from a bout of volunteering in Tanzania.

"When she came back she spoke to a few people on the staff about the experience," he says.

"And in light of all the good work being done over there, we wanted to add our own support to the cause, especially around Christmas.

"We did a bit of our own research - and we knew what Team Hope was doing was genuinely for a good cause. They always let us know exactly where the boxes are going. The children can track the journey too so it’s very authentic."

For the past few years, Scoil Ghobnatan has set up a school-wide committee dedicated to the Shoebox Appeal.

They visit classes, they give students ideas, thy show them practical examples of what they can include in their box. The support the committee rallies, from students and staff alike, is second to none.

"It’s become very embedded in our school, the shoebox drive," says Michael.

"It's very pupil and family centred - and community centred too. A lot of the local footwear shops and companies in Mallow have been brilliant to us, giving us the shoeboxes that we can give to the kids.

“The children and the staff are incredible, but we also have to acknowledge the parental support and the community at work. We always want to make sure that there’s no pressure, it’s just whatever you can give.”

Michael says that Scoil Ghobnatan collects one of the highest number of boxes for the drive every year.

In 2018, the school surpassed their 500 box target for the first time ever - a feat that Michael says wouldn't have been possible without the staff, the parents, and the wider community.

It also wouldn't have been possible without the students, hundreds of whom dedicate their time to carefully choosing gifts and necessities to send to children in need across Eastern Europe and Africa every year.

The children adhere to Team Hope's 4 Ws: something to wear, something for washing, something to write with, and something to wow.

For Lily-Mae Moriarty (second class), it's soap and a colouring book. For Alex Jones (third class), it's a toothbrush and a toy car. For Eve Crowley (sixth class), it's socks, a picture, and maybe a card too.

Each of the kids fill their box for a different child in need, taking away a little something for themselves as they do so.

Lily-Mae says it's the fun she has on collection day, when the school releases balloons to mark another successful drive. Alex says it's the feeling he gets when he wakes up on Christmas morning, knowing another child somewhere else is happy.

Eve says it's the enjoyment she gets out of the school's yearly concert, marking the day that the the hundreds of boxes are collected.

There's music, there's dancing, and there's even school caretaker Tony dressed up as a giant shoebox.

"One of the years, they thought he was an actual shoebox," says Eve, "and they put him in the van to take him away. We got him back though.”

Principal Michael says that the fuss made around the concert makes all the difference - for the kids who will be receiving the shoeboxes, as well as for those who filled them.

"It’s a bit of a celebration, really," he says. "It’s a good send off, and it lets the child know their box is going to a good destination."

“We make a big deal of doing the count too and there’s always a build up to the final number. It’s quite up-lifting.”

You can find out more about Team Hope's Shoebox Appeal, and what to put in your box, here.