InterNations Interns Make a Difference This Holiday Season

Towards the end of every year, when the holiday season is spreading the spirit of sharing and the time for New Year’s resolutions has come, most people start thinking about how to make a difference to those less fortunate than themselves. This year, the interns here at the InterNations HQ in Munich resolved to create some holiday cheer among disadvantaged children all over the world.

Our Social Media Intern Leah tells us all about their joint effort to learn more about fundraising, wrap dozens of boxes, and make over 40 kids happy on Christmas Day.

When the InterNations Changemakers came along and suggested taking part in the Weihnachten im Schuhkarton (‘Christmas in a Shoebox’) project, we were delighted to get involved. All of us interns — and there’s more than 15 of us — thought it would be a wonderful way to improve the lives of others while working together on an exciting project of our own.

‘Christmas in a Shoebox’ is organized by the charity Geschenke der Hoffnung (‘Presents of Hope’), and is part of a larger, worldwide project called ‘Operation Christmas Child’. The latter started in 1993 and has since helped over 130 million children in over 150 countries to celebrate Christmas. Its aim is to fill shoeboxes with gifts for children in need, for example in developing countries, who would usually not receive any gifts during the holiday season.

Fundraising 101

With over 15 people who wanted to take part, this was a great opportunity for us to hone our organizational skills: some serious planning was needed before we could really get the ball rolling.

We decided to set up several donation stations around the InterNations HQ as a first step. This way, our generous team members could make their own boxes, give individual gifts which we could then wrap later, or donate cash for us to buy more gifts (each box costs around 8 EUR to fill). Before we knew it, the pile of shoeboxes in our Team Lodge was growing higher and higher.

Donations from the entire InterNations Team were a fantastic start, but our plans were much more ambitious!

Together with the Changemakers Team, we brainstormed ways in which we could get even more gifts or cash donations, and the Changemakers recommended a tried-and-tested strategy: for the past few years, they have attended InterNations Official Events in Munich, trying to persuade our members to donate cash or gifts to ‘Presents of Hope’.

For us interns, this would be another great way to learn more about InterNations and gain some additional work experience: not only would we increase our donations by fundraising, but we would also meet our members in person and get a feel for our official events. So, off to P1 — a popular venue here in Munich — we went!

Before the event began, we let our local members know about our project and our donation station at the venue, where they could contribute to a good cause. A smaller team of seven interns was in charge of setting up the station at P1.

We got a very warm welcome from the guests at the event: once we had explained what the ‘Christmas in a Shoebox’ project was and how InterNations had contributed in the past few years, our members were more than happy to help. In fact, the first person to give to the cause surprised us with a generous 20 EUR note! All in all, we received around 170 EUR in cash — enough to fill more than 20 additional boxes.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Now it was time to spend all that money kindly donated by InterNations members and the InterNations Team. However, purchasing the gifts to put into our shoeboxes wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds: there are relatively strict rules about what can go into a box.

For example, ‘Presents of Hope’ recommends wrapping such gifts as stationery, warm clothing, food with a long use-by date, and small personal items, such as photos of yourself or your family. Meanwhile, perishable food, liquids, and delicate items (such as presents made from glass) should be avoided. Each box should also be aimed at a specific demographic, and should be labeled as such.

So we had to buy gifts for boys and girls, as well as suitable presents for the various age groups from 2 to 14. Once we had worked out how to best apply the rules, we really enjoyed sorting our little treasures — such as scented shower gel, fluffy socks, colorful pens, tiny toy cars, and of course, chocolate — and wrapping the gifts. This definitely got us into the Christmas spirit!

Finally, we needed to drop off our filled shoeboxes — over 40 of them! — at a local donation point. The one nearest point to our office was Vapiano, an Italian restaurant. So we decided that all of the interns should head over to the restaurant together, hand over the boxes, and celebrate our hard work with a well-deserved pizza or pasta dish.

I think I can speak for all of the interns here at InterNations when I say I certainly had a fabulous time working on this worthwhile project. I found it inspiring in both a personal and a professional sense: not only did it encourage us to continue to work with charities, but we would also like to work on other projects together, as we turned out to be a very well-organized and well-coordinated team.

Last but not least, I hope we’ve inspired you to make a difference this holiday season, too: you can find out more about donating your own shoebox to children in need at Weihnachten im Schuhkarton (German only) or Operation Christmas Child (international version).

Thanks again to all those who contributed to our cause by giving time or money, and happy holidays to everyone!

(Image credit: InterNations)

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