It may still be a few sleeps away, but Christmas has arrived early in East Timor.
Educational care parcels in the form of the 2,000 shoe boxes collected from Cooroy, Tewantin, Coolum and Pacific Paradise State Schools left in June and made it through storms and a school-term break to arrive in Timor.
Thanks to a collective and determined community effort, the educational parcels were distributed at Sao Miguel (St. Michael) at Raikotu. It's a school about 30 minutes west of Dili and thousands of students were waiting eagerly to receive one.
The school officially has 150 kindergarten students, 250 of primary age and some 200 junior high school kids, but the surrounding area of need stretches to include hundreds more. With the help of the Community Bank branch of Bendigo Bank in Tewantin, Cooroy, Pomona and Marcoola the Rotary Club of Noosa, the school was identified as a community school with no help from the ministry of education in Timor.
Each parcel took the form of a decorated shoe box with enclosed items including exercise books, rulers, erasers, pens and pencils, all topped off with a personal item from each student from the three state schools to the child opening it at the other end.
The Community Bank branches of Bendigo Bank and the Rotary Club of Noosa share the shipment costs because both organisations continue to see an opportunity to support a cause that would instil a sense of responsibility into each student who compiled these special gifts.
Cooroy State School deputy principal, Karina Ramsay said learning of the arrival of the shoe boxes has brought an emotional reaction from her students. To the hundreds of students who got involved at the school, the spirit of the project has really hit home in anticipation of seeing the video of the shoe boxes arriving.
"The students and our school all have a real connection to this project. They had a ball putting the care parcels together in June. It's great to see the collective efforts of the kids, their families and the teams at Bendigo Bank and Rotary put those shoe boxes into the hands of the kids who need them most,'' Mrs. Ramsay said.
"It's also wonderful to see their thoughtfulness come full circle and we're proud to have been part of it all again this year. Every shoe box was personally decorated and had educational items to further the education of a child less fortunate than themselves. Each student also enclosed something small of theirs such as a soft toy or tennis ball. It added something simple but personal to each box," she added.
Cooroy and Pomona Community Bank branches manager, Geoff Edwards said the project continues to build on something special.
"Our Community Banks are all about giving back and in this case the community recipients have been international ones. This project is about community partnership and feels as relevant now as when we started in 2008. We're delighted to continue our collaboration with Rotary and we're looking forward to watching some of the kids recognise their shoe box in the video. We all love this project and are committed to doing it all again in 2018," he said.