Negros Occidental

Woman’s gift-giving initiative brings joy to thousands of Negros kids

Ambo Delilan

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Woman’s gift-giving initiative brings joy to thousands of Negros kids

JOY. Happy children in an impoverished community in Negros Occidental opens their gift boxes from the Shoe Box Project.

She Box Project

A teenager started the Shoe Box Project in Negros Occidental in 2013, which has since been bringing joy to thousands of children with boxes filled with toys, school supplies, food, and other items from their wish lists

BACOLOD, Philippines – Growing up without a father figure can be incredibly challenging for children, especially when they’ve never experienced the joy of receiving gifts during their childhood.

These heart-wrenching realities inspired the then-16-year-old Julianne Gonzaga Asetre-Moises from Barangay Ilijan, Bago City, Negros Occidental, to start a gift-giving mission in December 2013. She launched the initiative in her village, and the heartfelt response she received was beyond her expectations.

The now 26-year-old Julianne told Rappler on Sunday, June 23, that she never expected her simple gift-giving initiative to last for more than a decade, and win increasing support from kind-hearted people.

Shoe Box Project Negros Occidental
HAPPY VOLUNTEERS. The Shoe Box Project volunteers strike a pose during one of their gift-giving missions in Negros Occidental. Shoe Box Project

Called the Shoe Box Project, Julianne’s initiative has grown over time to reach impoverished communities across Negros Island. It has been bringing joy to the poorest children by giving them boxes filled with toys, school supplies, food, and other items from their wish lists.

“Shoe Box was inspired by my own experience of losing my father at the age of three. It was a sad experience growing up without a father. When I turned 16 and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, I thought of a way to bring smiles to poor kids. That marked the beginning of my gift-giving campaign, something I had never experienced myself,” said Julianne, a member of a Baptist church.

For about 10 years, Julianne’s group conducted gift-giving activities only in December in time for Christmas. But starting this year, she said it would be done monthly.

“The beauty of Shoe Box is that our volunteers were once our beneficiaries,” she noted.

Having reached over 80 remote villages, Shoe Box has so far brought smiles to more than 9,000 underprivileged children.

Traveling to the rural villages is often challenging. “We encounter not just humps and bumps but also need to ‘feel the mud’ before reaching our destinations,” she said. At times, they bring the gifts to far-flung and hard-to-reach communities using carabaos.

Shoe Box Project Negros Occidental
SANTA ON A CARABAO. The couple behind the gift-giving project, James Isiah and Julianne Moises, use a carabao on their way to an outskirt barangay in Negros Occidental. Shoe Box Project

“But at the end of the day, the happiness we see is superb. Bringing smiles to kids and seeing their joyful faces is truly inspiring,” Julianne said.

Such a feeling, she said, is what drives them to strive harder in campaigning for donations for the project.

Aside from gift-giving, Julianne said Shoe Box also mentors the children, nurturing their “body, soul, and spirit,” which is the core of the faith-based project.

On Saturday, June 22, the group brought smiles to the faces of 150 children in Barangay Bunga, Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental. Each child received a box filled with toys, food, clothes, school supplies, and more.

According to April Gonzaga, Julianne’s mother, each box contained items worth around P350. These included toys, school supplies, food, and other items based on the children’s wish lists collected before the event.

“It was truly inspiring, as the project, through a youth ministry, is anchored in a church mission, and the kids were so happy to receive gifts,” said Don Salvador Benedicto Mayor Laurence Marxlen de la Cruz. – Rappler.com

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