My Dream In A Shoebox

It's said that great blessings come in small packages. Each year, the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) and TeamAsia organize - with partners Children's Hour and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) - an annual Christmastime effort to deliver small packages to thousands of children across the Philippines. Starting from humble beginnings four years ago in the aftermath of Typhoon ''Ondoy'' (international call sign Ketsana), it has grown to many times its original size, and reach.

Conceived by BPAP former executive director Jonathan de Luzuriaga and TeamAsia president Monette Hamlin, ''My Dream in a Shoebox'' is championed by the Philippine IT-BPO industry, and has become a beloved Christmas tradition of collecting and distributing shoeboxes filled with school supplies to Filipino children whose families struggle to keep them in school. But today it does much more than distribute school supplies. (Disclosure: BPAP is a client and my firm, TeamAsia.)

Thanks to increasingly broad support both within and without the IT-BPO industry and the generosity of individual knowledge workers, from 2010 to 2011 the initiative more than doubled the number of shoeboxes collected from 3,450 to 7,867. The shoeboxes were donated to public schools in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao under the nurturing care of Children's Hour. The AFP provided logistics. While a shoebox full of school supplies is indeed a small package, for the children beneficiaries and their families, they clearly matter.

But for the first time last year, the donations also included more than 100 computers and laptops, and over two million in cash for DepEd's Bayanihang Pampaaralan program. Donations were also used to assist Typhoon Sendong victims in Iligan City and other remote areas. Today the program is jointly administered by BPAP executive director for industry affairs Raymond Lacdao and TeamAsia marketing manager Jan Baybay. Their coordinated - and tireless - efforts have dramatically expanded the scope of the annual project.

Like any worthwhile undertaking, BPAP and TeamAsia and our partners believe the program should continue to grow and provide relief and support for an increasing number of children each year. The goal for 2012 is to provide 10,000 shoeboxes, 500 computers and laptops, and another P2 million for the Bayanihang Pampaaralan program. Based on the enthusiastic momentum the program enjoys, BPAP and TeamAsia are confident of reaching this stretch goal.

There are several different ways to participate in the program. First, naturally, has to do with filling shoeboxes with school supplies, wrapping them, and delivering them to the BPAP or TeamAsia offices. Many companies take ownership of the program internally, and invite their teams to create original shoebox designs and drop the stuffed shoeboxes at internal collection sites. When notified, BPAP and TeamAsia will arrange pickup of the boxes. Often, companies drop the shoeboxes themselves off at the BPAP or TeamAsia offices.

As Ms. Baybay says, ''Fill shoeboxes with school supplies such as notebooks, pad paper, pens and pencils, crayons, rulers, scissors, and bottles of glue. Make your shoeboxes special by separately wrapping the lid and box with colorful recycled paper or Christmas wrappers. But for safety and security purposes, please don't glue or permanently seal your shoeboxes.'' There are no limits on the number of supplies included in each shoebox.

Organizations participating in the program are requested to complete a ''Santa Form'' when dropping off shoeboxes to document their gift, and to ensure that they receive acknowledgement of their generosity. These details and more are available on the project website, http://www.teamasia.com/shoeboxcampaign/index.htm. Contact information for Mr. Lacdao and Ms. Baybay is available on the website, as are social media links.

Many organizations decommission desktop computers after two years of use, and wind up wondering what to do with them, other than sell them for salvage - an environmentally perilous alternative - or keeping them locked up in a warehouse gathering dust. While the Philippines is making good progress in building classrooms, it needs a staggering number of computers for labs. My Dream in a Shoebox will take those used computers - desktops, laptops alike - and put them to work educating the next generation.

Finally, last year BPAP and TeamAsia saw a wide range of organizations contribute enough cash to build two classrooms for Bayanihang Pampaaralan. Enough cash was left over to assist victims of calamity as well. This year, the organizations hope to do even more.

For those of us who have had the pleasure of being onsite when these gifts are delivered, well, there's nothing like it. BPAP and TeamAsia are anxious to share that experience with organizations and individuals regardless of industry.

Let's work together to deliver great blessings in small packages again this year.

***

(Michael Alan Hamlin is the managing director of TeamAsia and a Manila-based author and commentator. Write him at mahamlin@teamasia.com, follow him on Twitter, @asianpundit, friend him on Facebook, michaelalanhamlin, or link on LinkedIn, michaelalanhamlin.)

Copyright © 2012 Michael Alan Hamlin. All Rights Reserved.

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