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What can a small shoebox contain? For some children in the Philippines, it is a box of full of surprises, joy, and yes, hope. With that perspective, the ShoeBox Project Bacolod was born.
“You are blessed to be a blessing.”~The ShoeBox Project Bacolod
Origins The ShoeBox Project Bacolod
I remember Achi Shawna receiving a shoebox gift from the United States. It was part of the Samaritan’s Purse campaign to reach out to children from other countries. They sent out boxes as well as missionaries to share the love of God. That was about nine years ago.
In a different part of Bacolod City, another girl also got her own shoebox gift from Samaritan’s Purse. She is a friend and disciple of Julianne Gonzaga Asetre. Inspired by her friend’s experience, Julianne eventually founded the ShoeBox Project Bacolod.
Julianne recalls that growing up without a dad, she longed for a father’s love. Her father took away his life when she was merely a toddler, so she never got to know him. Additionally, she remembers her mom spending decades to fight for her name after she was wrongfully accused of killing her husband.
Despite her mom’s efforts in trying to keep the home secure, Julianne felt that something was amiss. She found it hard to actually “belong”. It was really a struggle for her seeing her friends happy with their complete families.
After finishing high school, she decided to stop schooling in order to do some soul-searching. She knew that if she kept on, she would just be destroying her life. So she joined the Youth With a Mission (YWAM). It was a life-changing experience for Julianne.
A Stint With YWAM
YWAM is an international Christian missionary and outreach group. Julianne joined the training in Antipolo City here in the Philippines and helped in programs around Luzon. Henceforth, she was sent on short-term missions trips in India and Thailand.
Julianne’s time with YWAM was a turning point for her. It was there that she received the fullness of God’s love and grace in her life. Her perspective about living changed dramatically. “I was filled with the love of Jesus and I just couldn’t contain it.”
Her experience and personal transformation made her want to stay with the group so that she could keep on sharing the love of Jesus. However, since she was still very young, many elders encouraged her to come back to Bacolod City and continue with her studies.
And she obeyed. However, she couldn’t contain God’s goodness in her life so she wanted to find a way to pay it forward. Then the Samaritan’s Purse inspiration hit her – -she could actually do it locally.
Coming home was actually the best decision because Julianne’s humility and servitude enabled her to start the ShoeBox Project Bacolod.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in.”1 Timothy 4:12 NIV
She was only 16 years old at that time when she started this ministry. With the help of family and friends, the first ShoeBox Project event was held on December 2014 in Brgy. Ilijan, Bago City, Negros Occidental.
The campaign is now on its 6th year, collecting as many as 2,000 shoeboxes in one season. Some of the beneficiaries have already grown up. The eldest ones from the first batch are now in college.
Since they are being continually mentored within the church, these kids have become Christians themselves and are returning the favor. Most have become volunteers for the project while others find donors for more shoebox gifts.
The ShoeBox Project Bacolod operates with this mission: You are blessed to be a blessing.
Testimonies from Recipient Volunteers
Franz Gabriel Baylon was one of the first beneficiaries of the ShoeBox Project in Brgy. Ilijan, Bago City. Now, he lives in a nice home with his family in Bacolod and is going to the Colegio San Agustin for his college degree.
He recalls that he was one of those confused little children waiting on a warm seat for his shoebox gift. Moreover, he also remembered the volunteers who shared the story of the Savior.
Here’s part of his testimony:
“I realized that the best gift wasn’t the one wrapped or bought. It was something a man couldn’t explain, something so enormous that thinking (about it) is beyond the magnitude of its possibilities. It was the gift of eternal life — Jesus.”~ Franz Gabriel Baylon
Below, you can read Franz’ entire testimony from his Facebook post.
What is an Apple?
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
That’s the saying, right? One nice lady from Bacolod City always makes it a point to bring apples to give away during gift-giving day. It’s part of the snacks for the activity.
Would you believe that most of the kids from the barangays have never even seen an apple? They know what an apple looks like because they have seen pictures in books. So you can just imagine their delight when they were finally able to hold, smell, and also eat an apple!
- Related: Sisters Exchange Gifts for Christmas
I related this story to our kids and they were like, “What???? That’s crazy!” Told them that’s just how life is. There are people who have less than us. Moreover, there are underprivileged children and they should always be thankful with what they have.
Mechanics of Giving
The ShoeBox Project is an evangelistic event that happens every December in time for Christmas. It’s perfect timing because the message of the whole gift-giving activity is Christ.
Due to the volume of gifts they are receiving, Julianne says that giving can extend even up to March of the following year.
People who are interested to give can deliver their boxes at the Ikthus Church in Lacson Street, Mandalagan, Bacolod City.
The donations should be placed in a box, not necessarily a shoebox. It can be bigger. Items are usually assorted and can range from but not limited to the following:
- Canned goods
- School supplies
- Arts and crafts materials
- Grooming and hygiene products
In our case, we teamed up with the Bacolod Homeschoolers Network. We were given a list of beneficiaries complete with age and genders. Since we have two daughters ages 10 and 6, we also chose two girls who are about the same age as them.
We were able to give them age and gender appropriate stuff, including stationery and a girly water bottle for Achi Shawna’ counterpart.
Donors may choose to join the gift-giving activity that usually involves a program and some refreshments afterwards. If we can prepare better next year, then hopefully, our family can also join.
The main objective of the ShoeBox Project is to reach children for Jesus. That is why the beneficiaries are not random children.
These are kids who can be channeled to a local bible study group or Christian church. Those who may receive a shoebox can be anyone from 5 to 14 years old.
Before a particular gift giving activity, the volunteers of the ShoeBox Project conduct a house to house census of the kids in the area. They gather pertinent information that can be useful for the project’s database. The volunteers make sure that a child only gets a gift once because this is an evangelistic tool and not a dole out.
As I have mentioned earlier, the volunteers are the kids who were former recipients of the Shoebox Project. They also want to pay it forward through their service.
The Value of Sharing
We are homeschooling because more than academics, we want to teach our children to become citizens with good hearts. So we place a big emphasis on values and character.
We believe that our role as parents is not to toughen up our daughters but to help them become strong women who personify Christ in their lives. And it can be more often emphasized when we disciple and discipline them.
At home, we underscore the values of gratitude, contentment, and sharing. Charity, after all, begins in the home.
Contact the ShoeBox Project Bacolod
For interested donors or local churches, you may contact:
Julianne Gonzaga Asetre
FB page: ShoeBoxProjectBCD
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