For women in shelters, little luxuries can boost spirits. In 2011 four Montreal sisters-in-law decided to launch a project to brighten a few lives by providing shelters with small boxes filled with things like toiletries, cosmetics, phone cards, sweets and gift certificates. The Shoebox Project was born.
The project’s mission is described on its Facebook page:
There are currently 21 volunteer cities from Vancouver to Halifax! Volunteers are encouraged to find and fill a shoebox with items reaching an approximate value of $50. These would be things that a woman would enjoy but would not splurge on for herself, especially in times of difficulty.
Caroline Mulroney Lapham learned of the project from her sister-in-law, whose mother is one of the founders. Inspired to launch a Toronto chapter, she wrote in Huffington Post:
While we were not surprised that our friends were so generous, we were astonished by the number of inquiries and deliveries we received from people we didn’t know as a result of the email being forwarded! By mid-December, the boxes were piled high in corners of our homes!
Bethany Wong started a Vancouver Shoebox Project and told 24 Hours Vancouver:
It struck a chord with me because I used to volunteer at the Vancouver Rape Crisis Centre and this this is women helping women. This is the time of year that we spend with friends and family and I just want to provide a little happiness to other women in our community who aren’t as lucky.”
The drives have expanded beyond Christmas. The London, Ontario Shoebox Project gathered gift-filled shoeboxes for Mother’s Day, suggesting people tuck in things like bus tickets and gift cards to coffee shops. In Toronto and Vancouver employees of Dermalogica Canada filled shoeboxes in honour of Nelson Mandela’s birthday.
Like stones thrown in a pond, these small gestures of humanity send ripples outward in wounded spirits. Women who seek refuge in shelters carry enormous burdens and face uncertain futures. The Shoebox Project is one way to show kindness to women facing ordeals. It gives me hope.