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Family dynamics

13th Dec 2020

Children helping children: Carlow teacher gets her students involved in Christmas Shoebox Appeal

Melissa Carton

Giving can start at any age.

Team Hope came together in 2010 with the goal of helping disadvantaged children overseas.

Since then thousands of Irish people have joined their cause, helping to put together Christmas shoeboxes filled with gifts and essentials for children in need.

Among those is Co. Carlow teacher Sharon Tennyson, who over the years has gotten her students more and more involved in the Team Hope cause.

To start can you introduce yourself ?

I’m Sharon Tennyson and I’m a teacher in Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach in Carlow town. My subjects include CSPE and I also have TY groups. This provides a great opportunity to be involved with Team Hope.

How did you become involved in Team Hope?

We began work on the shoeboxes several years ago when my friend who runs the depot in Carlow was looking for boxes and volunteers.

How have you combined your work as a teacher and your work with Team Hope?

Secondary schools are different to primary in that it’s more difficult to get the students to bring in filled boxes so we decided to approach it in a different way.

We start in September by wrapping hundreds of shoeboxes which is quite a skill in itself! Students collect the free toys that fast food restaurants give out.

We organise bake sales and we run a raffle with spot prizes donated from local businesses to raise funds and then the students go and buy the various things needed for a box. In November TY groups help with the final packing in the local depot.

What have been some of your favourite memories of doing the Team Hope appeal with your students?

My students learn how to knit little hairbands and it’s so nice to see them learn a fast dying skill. They love it!

Secondary students realise that not all children are as lucky as them and the stories they hear really get them enthusiastic and interested in helping to make Christmas a better time for the less fortunate. The fact that they are so hands on with the shoeboxes packing is a great feeling.

What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering with Team Hope?

For anyone thinking of getting involved I would say it’s such a rewarding experience, from asking businesses for donations to baking to organising the contents of the box, even down to writing a little personal note to each child.

These kids have nothing and to imagine their little faces light up… who wouldn’t want to bring some joy into their lives?

Unfortunately Sharon and her students will not be taking as much of a hands on approach this year due to Covid and social distancing rules – but they will still be making a difference whatever way they can.

These new rules also means that the Team Hope Shoebox Appeal will be different too, with the entire campaign taking place online so you can get involved from the comfort of your own home.

Anyone wishing to get involved with the shoebox appeal can fill a virtual shoebox online for €20, which will then be sent directly to a child in need.

You can build your own virtual box for this year’s Team Hope drive through their website here.