The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Volunteers' joy checking Norfolk's donated shoeboxes

There is still time to join the team of dedicated volunteers occupying an unheated warehouse in Wymondham, working hard to get thousands of shoeboxes donated to the Operation Christmas Child appeal, from across Norfolk, ready to be sent to children overseas.  Jenny Seal visited the Processing Centre.

When you first enter the Norfolk Operation Christmas Child Processing Centre, a spacious industrial unit on the Wymondham Business Park, the sight of thousands of festively wrapped shoeboxes piled high waiting to be individually checked can be a daunting prospect.
Emma Fawcett, Samaritans Purse Regional Manager said: “We estimate that we will have processed 8,000 boxes by the end of this week”.

The shoeboxes have been packed, some to overflowing, with toys, toiletries and stationery by individuals, churches and businesses across Norfolk, to be given as unconditional gifts to needy children overseas.

At the Wymondham warehouse these boxes come to be checked by a committed team of volunteers before being loaded onto transportation that will carry them to children in Central Asia.  The Norfolk team check each box individually to ensure that any unsuitable, perishable or potentially dangerous items are removed, the boxes are sufficiently full and roughly age-appropriate.

The warehouse has been operating for a week and a half, and now enters a final push to finish by Friday, December 1. Volunteers, many from churches across Wymondham and beyond, come and go giving time as they can, with some having spent multiple days in the unheated warehouse doing quite monotonous tasks.

The piles of boxes are systematically processed through a Triage section, where any obvious problems are caught, then passed on to the Checking tables for a more thorough examination of the contents and then to the Check and Seal section for a final inspection and taping up. At any point in this process a box in need of rewrapping or re-filling will be sent to the Box Hospital area for attention.

Although the work itself can be repetitive, and the temperature low, the joy of opening a box and finding an array of fun, specially picked contents – some with letters and photographs included – certainly lifts the experience.

Cherry Saunders, who attends Wymondham Abbey, explained the appeal: “What is lovely is when you see a really lovely box and see all the love inside it.”

Carol Diack who took annual leave off from work to keep the filler section of the warehouse well stocked and organised said: “It would be boring if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s for a really good cause and there are good people here.”

You still have time to volunteer at the Wymondham Processing Centre. It will be open until Friday and if you can spare a couple of hours it would make a difference, but do wrap up warm with extra socks!  

You can turn up from 10am to 8pm until Friday evening, or to confirm email Emma Fawcett on emma.fawcett@samaritans-purse.org.uk.

The Processing Centre can be found at Unit 13, Wymondham Business Park, Chestnut Drive, Wymondham, NR18 9SB 

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