It’s March, there's a hint of Spring in the air and it’s International Women’s Day once again.
All of which means that we’ve been busy collecting for Project Shoebox, our annual International Women’s Day outreach. Project Shoebox was originally a Canadian charity, established to collect and distribute gifts for women at risk of homelessness. In 2015, a Cognifide colleague set up our version of this fantastic initiative and brought it to life in London via her local homeless refuge.
Fast forward 5 years and Cognifide’s Project Shoebox has snowballed. It is now supported by several WPP agencies and by other local businesses, both in London, and in Poznan and Bydgoszcz in Poland, where our engineering centres are based. Last year we donated 700 boxes to vulnerable women via our local charity partners.
Our donation drive calls for colleagues, peers, friends and family to contribute toiletries and every day essential items that we can package into Shoebox survival packs to help women through their first few days in a shelter. Often they will be arriving with very few possessions, having escaped in the night or left in a hurry. They’re often with their children or expecting a baby in the coming weeks or months. Although it doesn’t seem much, our charity partners tell us that these boxes can make the difference between staying in the relative safety of the shelter or returning to an abusive home, simply due to the lack of a few home comforts in a situation which is already unbearable.
In London, we work with Hestia, a charity that supports both adults and children in times of crisis. This includes victims of modern slavery, women and children who have experienced domestic abuse, young care leavers and older people.
Katie Beeching, Head of Domestic Abuse and Modern Slavery, Hestia
Domestic abuse can affect every aspect of a person’s life. When a family arrives at a refuge, they often only have the clothes on their back. With these donations, we can provide women with basic essentials and toiletries as well toys for their children. These are items that many of us take for granted but we see every day in our services how vital they are.
In Poland we are packing 500 boxes that will be distributed via 15 different social partners across the country. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support of our local communities that have come together to help us scale the donation drive. We’ve been joined by large, medium and small businesses, schools and universities, as well as City Hall’s Invest in Poznan. In Bydgoszcz we’ve even had the Museum of Soap and Dirt collecting for us!
Hanna Hendrysiak, ECHO Society Chair
Last year we received 50 boxes of toiletries and were able to support about 100 women. We provide everyday support for families, people struggling with poverty, pensioners, single mums and socially excluded men. The cosmetics and toiletries collected support these women by improving their sense of dignity.
So many people pull together so that Project Shoebox can make a difference to people’s lives and we’d like to thank you all for taking part. We couldn’t do it without you. And thank you to our charity partners for the incredible work that they do all year, every year to help the vulnerable in our societies.
Tadeusz Ciesiółka, Crisis Intervention Centre Manager in Krotoszyn, Greater Poland
Initiatives such as Project Shoebox are a real system of support. Of course, government institutions care about the very basic needs of people in crisis: somewhere to sleep, something to eat. But there are other things that make a significant difference to women’s lives and allow them to be more independent. It’s empowering to show them how supportive people can be. Shoebox was really well received last year. Thank you for putting postcards from volunteers in each box, it was a really nice touch.
For more information on these charities or to support them, please check out their websites. Hestia in London, Children’s Rights Committee, Crisis Intervention Centers in Greater Poland, Centre of Support for Woman “Etezja”, ECHO Society, Spiced with Heart Foundation, Centre of Support for Single Mothers and Homeless Women, Home for Social Re-adaptation MONAR-MARKOT in Poland.
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