Rangimarie Mako remembers the disappointment at Christmases and birthdays of receiving few or no gifts. So, watching the joy on children's faces as they opened their Christmas in a Shoebox last year is driving her to help repeat the project she instigated for Northlanders.
The Onerahi mother of three began Christmas in a Shoebox Whangarei/Northland last year after a friend became involved in Operation Christmas Child, which sends boxes of gifts to children in overseas third world countries.
"I thought this was amazing. I was so keen to help my friend. However, I couldn't help thinking of our own children in our own country or town and that inspired me to research and create Christmas in a Shoebox Whangarei/Northland."
Rangimarie put a call out and was overwhelmed by the response. She was provided with over 1,000 shoeboxes from businesses, schools, churches and individuals and a ton of gift donations, such as clothing, shoes, arts n crafts, electronics, beauty products, toys, vouchers, as well as around $700 to buy extra gifts and wrapping paper.
Each box was filled to the value of around $30 suitable for ages 2-17 and, after seeking out those in need via social services groups, she handed some out herself.
"I got addresses of children nominated by social organisations and the public and set a day for the fire trucks to deliver. I chose Otangarei area and prepared a route and we ended up at the kindergarten there.
"The kids' faces, oh my god, were just priceless. Some children were happy with finding pens in their boxes. It was great. Delivering hundreds of boxes was hard work but so worth it," says the 30-year-old.
Rangimarie says she experienced poverty herself as a child.
"We always had food, although it wasn't the best, but, nonetheless, we were fed and clothed. We lived with no power but, despite all that, we were taught to be grateful and I loved my childhood.
"Christmases and birthdays weren't the greatest, though, and, as a child, it was disappointing not getting much or sometimes nothing so having experienced the hardship that some children go through during Christmas just pushed me to do this work."
She was joined last year by Rickylee McElwain, who has stepped up this year to drive the project.
"Rickylee helped me out last year with wrapping and collecting boxes at her home and answering messages and this year she is running the show as I had to take a step back due to family commitments," explains Rangimarie, who has four-year-old twins and a two-year-old.
Says Rickylee: "I was actually scrolling through Facebook and Rangimarie had put up a post about starting this and I thought it was a cool idea to jump on board, so I did. I love giving back to others and paying it forward so I thought this would be even better. I messaged her and, from that day, I have been a part of Christmas in a Shoebox Northland and it's honestly been the best interest I've had."
People can help by either collecting a shoe box to fill, filling their own shoe box, donating items – both new or used - or they can donate money and Rangimarie and Rickylee will fill it for them. The boxes are gender-specific for the age range 2-17 years. Anyone who donates is welcome to help with the delivery the week before Christmas so they can personally pass their boxes on.
Items can be dropped off at Ray White Whangarei or 30 Ewing Road before December 20. Or donations can be made to Christmas in a Shoebox Whangarei: 38-9019-0240400-01. This is used to top-up boxes lacking age-specific items.
For further information, go to: FB - Christmas in a Shoebox Whangarei/Northland or email: firstname.lastname@example.org