You & Me BC
The Shoebox Rocks!
One of the many shoeboxes being sent out across BC and Canada (Photo: The Shoebox Project)
You & Me BC
December 5th, 2021
For most people a shoebox is something of little consequence; a bit of cardboard to be discarded.
But for a group of community champions across BC, it has a much deeper meaning.
The Shoebox Project was started by 4 sisters and the idea was simple idea: collect, fill, and distribute gift filled shoeboxes for women impacted by homelessness and domestic violence.
Each box contains something warm, something sweet or edible, and something essential that a woman might need if she's fleeing home-like shampoo or conditioner.
Each box also contains a luxury item such as nice makeup, and something special like a notebook or journal that could be useful no matter where someone finds themselves.
A decade later, the project and tens of thousands of boxes have been sent across Canada, and this year the need's greater than ever.
Two Cities, One Cause
Marika Soleil and Terri Anne Gibson are 2 of the women carrying on this mission in BC.
For Marika, a real estate professional who coordinates The Shoebox Project's Kelowna chapter, it's a duty to help others and sense of shared identity that pushed her to get involved.
"I always had a thing for just wanting to help people. I have kids of my own and always want to help women provide. It really warms my heart if I can help even just one person."
DID YOU KNOW: Children who witness violence in the home have twice the rate of psychiatric disorders as children from non-violent homes
For Terri, the lead coordinator of the Shoebox Project's Vancouver chapter, her own experiences as a girl created a lasting desire to help others in a similar situation.
"I was affected by domestic violence as a child, and had to see what my mother went through. Nobody who knows me now would ever suspect that we went through that."
"1 in 3 women will experience it personally. It’s way closer to home than most realize."
She's right, and it's getting worse.
Marika and Terri
While the impact of domestic violence was already felt in homes throughout the country, it's been made all the more serious by the pandemic - now stretching into year 2.
Women have been accessing emergency shelters at increasing rates, putting strain on already limited resources, and a growing proportion of these women experience intimate partner violence.
Shelters across Canada also report that the violence has become more severe during the pandemic, including broken bones, stabbings, and strangulations.
Each city also has its own challenges. In the Lower Mainland, the cost of housing is the highest in the province, forcing more women to the streets, while a lack of shelter beds in Kelowna keeps many from receiving much needed assistance.
DID YOU KNOW: 6 in 10 Indigenous women experience intimate partner assault, and are 7 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be murdered
In both cities, women are also disproportionately impacted by poverty, with Indigenous women and women with disabilities especially feeling the brunt.
The combination of pandemic pressures, along with preexisting issues, has created a need that's making Terri, Marika, and the other members of the Shoebox Project team step up more than ever.
That Time of the Year
Terri and Marika are currently preparing for the biggest shoebox drive of the year: the holidays.
It will be Marika's first time running the campaign in Kelowna, where the goal is to provide 150 shoeboxes to 5 different local organizations working with women in need.
A shoeboxing and wrapping party are part of the plans, and people can create virtual shoeboxes from their own home, which will then be sent out in physical form.
"I hopes it alleviates some of that stress and makes these women feel a little bit special. They will be alone on Christmas when others are with family, and we want to let them know people still care about them."
The holidays - and the shoeboxes - are coming! (Photo: The Shoebox Project)
For Terri in Vancouver, the goal is especially ambitious.
"The need is far higher as the pandemic progresses. Women are have been hit especially hard, so we upped our goal from the 2800 shoeboxes we donated in 2019 to 4000 this year."
"Community coming together to help community - that's what it's all about."
Want to contribute to the Shoebox Project? To find more about how to donate or volunteer, visit The Shoebox Project Kelowna and The Shoebox Project Vancouver.
To get in touch with Spencer van Vloten, editor of You & Me BC, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org