Hi Kerry, I think this is a good place to start discussing that. I was just remembering that we have sent Christmas Parcels for years and years to the Lowries always stating Gift and No commercial value and as far as I recall no duty was ever paid. So there are a few things we can do. One is send a test which I can do now. Two is talk to the post office, as Ronda says in her interview she is very friendly with the folk in there now. If we find out that duty is not an issue then we can move forward. And perhaps we can have a few different lists/
One for the Jabulani Boys, one for the hill kids and so on and also a donation option for those who would be happy for Ronda to sort it out. Also we should consider the Christmas party idea that both Ronda and the SCC ladies are very keen to do for as many children as they can. This is something of a treat many of these kids will NEVER have experienced.
With regard to what we put in, it is going to depend on who we send for. The Jabulani Boys (who number 35) or the 100 or so hill kids that Ronda has mentioned. Then there are our creche littlies and the general parish children of all ages and sexes. I know Alice would love to knit bears from some of these little ones from the UK Group. The USA group have talked a lot about educational stuff.
My vote is for educational stuff, (pencils and note pads) but a simple thing like a tennis ball or rubber ball would be luxury for a lot of these kids, or a soccer ball, they would think they had died and gone to heaven. However, when we think about this we must consider a number of things. The boxes must NOT elicit any jealousy or potential theft, they must be similar, they should not incur duty and it would be wonderful if they did not cost the donor too much money or weigh to heavily and cost too much postage.
We have to consider the living conditions of the children. It would be pointless ending pretty things for the children who live in the hills. If we pursue this idea then we will talk to Eloise, she could advise us as to what they would best need. This is a real challenge and I hope that it will be considered very carefully and elicit a great conversation that at the end will result in consensus as to what is sensible to send for whom.
Sandy - can you tell us what is the school year in S. Africa?? Here in North America, the kids are heading back to school in a couple of weeks, and except for their breaks, will be in until June.
Here's why I am asking..... school supplies are everywhere in our stores right now (even grocery stores) By the end of September, they start to go on sale and by mid-October, they are practically giving the stuff away... we can buy packs of 5 erasers for 10 cents, binder paper for a quarter, pencils for practically nothing etc. It's still too costly to send these to S.A., but I wonder if the same thing happens there six weeks into the beginning of school. It would be great if there was a bit 'extra' in the Christmas donations that could be set aside until the whomping great sales start... and maybe the Soweto ladies could take addvantage of the sales to get some of these school supplies really cheap. They will be useful any time of the year, and it would be great if there could be a little fund available so they could buy stuff when it's dirt cheap, even if it's stockpiled until needed.
I can only imagine how the kids must feel to have their own workbook and pencil... or crayons...or a solar calculator.....
Which is why I think buying balls over there makes tons of sense. We help the S.A. economy and we give the kids a group gift that everybody can enjoy. Even the smaller balls are instantly well used. I agree that kids here have no clue what it's like overseas. My daughter who went to South Korea toured some poorer countries on her vacation, particularly Cambodia. To say it opened her eyes is understating it. She said there were beggars everywhere. She bought some food for a widow woman standing begging on a street corner with her young daughter and baby and the lady was stunned she even noticed her. And it cost her so little to do it-pocket change literally. People over here have NO CLUE what "going without" really means. And I'm dead serious about that. You are right on about the value of play, it's SO healthy for the kids. I'm all for buying the goods in S.A., supporting their local economy and avoiding mailing costs. We can then include what we would have spent on postage in our donation, ie. send more cash, right?
Personally, I think I favour the donation option for several reasons.... the main one being the danger of incurring any duty charges. I hate to put up any red flags when it comes to KAS and so far we have managed to get our squares through (plus more than a few hats, small blankets etc,) without alarming the customs folks. It would only take a few boxes of the wrong stuff to make them look harder at everything we send.
The other problem I see is the time factor. To get the gifts there in lots of time, they would have to leave Canada, for example, by no later than the last week of September. It would be tragic if some of the gifts got held up in the post and did not arrive in time, particularly if we had committed to a specific child or group.
In Canada, we have "Dollar Stores" where you can buy a lot of wonderful school supplies, stuffed toys, other toys, persnal hygiene supplies etc. for a buck. I assume these stores are pretty universal and can be found in S.A. If for example, I purchased five cuddly toys here and mailed them, It would cost me $5 to purchase them, and more than twice that to mail them! I would rather donate the whole $15 and have Ronda choose what is most needed, knowing that everything would be in hand well before Christmas, and maybe she could purchase three times what I could mail!
There would be some work involved in the shopping, but it might be less time-consuming than picking up the parcels. opening, sorting and then finding there are gaps to be filled in.
I also like the idea that this way, everything would be "equal" for the groups of older children.. the littlies wouldn't know the difference... and in their case, the hand-made teddies would be ideal and it seems lots of people are making these... so they would make a wonderful gift.
Most of all, I love the idea of the Christmas parties... maybe the first "party" any of these kids have ever had??...
It is wonderful to choose specific gifts to send... for several years I have done two or three shoeboxes for "Operation Christmas Child" and I have had great fun picking out the little things I want to send, so I understand why some folks might want to choose this option... but my vote will be for the donation - fast, duty free and it will purchase exactly what is most needed.
Could we organise a treat for the folk at Soweto Comfort Club, and any other sewing up volunteers ? I don't know Africa, so if this would be too difficult to arrange, or unsuitable for any other reason, that is fine. I just think that they have worked very hard, and this whole brilliant project is impossible without them.
I'm agreeing completely with Anne - I too live in Canada and loved making up the boxes with things chosen from the Dollar Store. However, the higher value of a monetary donation to make our bucks go farther over-shadows my love of shopping! I wonder if we can be given a specific dollar value which would ensure Ronda could make up enough boxes for the Khakibos boys and the Hill Kids? A dollar value for each group, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like the Khakibos may require educational things (and toys), and the Hill Kids more basic (perhaps personal hygiene stuff, and toys), then people can choose which one (or hopefully both!) they could send funds for. If we start soon, there would be time for an alert to go out if one or the other group is short of funds, so we can quickly make up the difference. But the teddies for the Hill Kids would be wonderful to include - and would also do nicely for the Christmas boxes for the little ones. I just need a dollar range as I have no idea, needless to say, what things cost over there. Even in U.S. funds would do.
My niece just returned from serving a year in Ghana with Engineers Without Borders and she asked us to send some items over for the village kids there for Christmas 2007. Let me say that my share of the postage on those two large boxes was $100! She said the immediate and biggest hit was BALLS, even though we didn't send a lot of them. They can be instantly used by a whole group of children, so there's sharing and no jealousy. They are a highly valued gift but shipping them from here is nuts as they take up so much room due to their shape. I would truly suggest balls as a "whole village" gift for the kids as a whole group can immediately use 1 toy. I enjoy the Christmas Box operations and take part when I can but they're a huge well run organisation and can cut costs as we never can. I suggest leaving boxes sent from here to them and similar long running organisations, and that we just send $ which can translate into goods bought in S.A. Of course the soft knit teddies are a different story as I imagine many could be fit into an envelope, suck the air out with a vacuum thing or a drinking straw and fire it off, they have little weight to them and they're ideal for the younger kids as they don't break like hard toys might.
I have 3 children, all grown up now, but they were all jealous of one an other at sometime. Even though we spent about £300 on each child for christmas. That's just nature. I would like to send some toys to the children in SA. I have some toys which have been used but are in very good condition. Can I do this?