Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Lesley Hendry, Communications & Marketing Coordinator at The Shoebox Project, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
Most of the services that women living in poverty must regularly access are dehumanizing by nature. Living off of social assistance (often no more than $200 per month), grocery shopping at food banks, and living without certain necessities in order to afford clothing or school supplies for their children – these daily stressors often lead to feelings of severe hopelessness and isolation.
Shelters for people experiencing homelessness are an essential service to tens of thousands of Canadians, providing the necessities of life like food, warmth and security that we all need to survive. But they are not a fun place to live, and no one wants to be there long term. Shelters are not a home.
The Shoebox Project for Shelters, supported by Dream, collects and distributes gifts in the form of shoeboxes to women living in shelters across Canada. Over the 2014 holiday season, The Shoebox Project delivered gifts to over 17,000 women in 72 communities! They also collect and deliver hundreds of shoeboxes in honour of other occasions like Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day. Spending money on hand lotion, a warm coffee, or new mittens might seem frivolous if you’re not sure where your next meal is coming from, which is why each shoebox is filled with items valued at $50 that a woman would enjoy, but would not splurge on for herself in difficult times.
The Shoebox Project’s success is contingent on the hard work of our network of volunteers and its continued growth would not be possible without the generosity of individual and corporate donors.
A Shoebox says, “You are not alone”.
“Who would do this?”
This is a common reaction from women upon receiving one of our Shoeboxes.
“Who on earth would take the time to put this together?!”
Many women living in shelters don’t have a strong support system, or can’t afford anything beyond the absolute basics, so it’s understandable that receiving an intricately wrapped shoebox filled with gifts, and a warm, thoughtful message from a complete stranger, might seem unbelievable.
Reducing the feelings of isolation and loneliness faced by women living in shelters is one of the most important outcomes of the Shoebox Project for Shelters. Receiving a Shoebox Project gift, especially during an already difficult time like the holidays, is a powerful and lasting reminder for a woman that despite her circumstances, she has not been forgotten and she remains a valued and respected member of her community.
A Shoebox says, “You matter”.
Women living in poverty are forced to make tough personal sacrifices every day in order to provide for their families or to secure stable housing. Often, this comes at the expense of their own personal comfort and self-care. When a woman lacks control over her own body and cannot care for herself as well as she would like to, it can have a significant and debilitating impact on her self-worth. It is our goal to help reduce these pressures by providing women who are homeless with some basic personal care items like deodorant, toothpaste, and socks, but also by providing some other “luxury” items like make-up, skin care products, and jewellery – small things that can help a woman feel beautiful and confident.
A Shoebox says, “We are in this together”.
Whether it’s a family encouraging their kids to give back to their community or part of a corporate holiday party, the act of creating and donating Shoeboxes brings people together and works to give a human face to the broad issues of poverty and homelessness. When a person makes the effort to assemble a gift for a woman living in a shelter, it brings to mind the challenges she may be facing and the many obstacles to overcome. So many women who make boxes say that they identify with these strangers:
“It could so easily be me.”
The Shoebox Project works year-round to educate our supporters on the various issues facing women living in shelters; from mental health and addiction to domestic abuse and the shortage of affordable housing. With our growing community of volunteers, donors and partners across Canada, we work to raise awareness of women’s homelessness and the underlying issues in an effort to affect meaningful change for the women we serve.
To learn more about The Shoebox Project, please visit their charity profile page >>>