Since 2015, Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) students of Sri Sathya Sai Baba Center of Seattle Eastside have been participating in a Shoebox project. The children fill shoeboxes with gifts and hygiene items, which are then given as Christmas presents to children in need all over the world. The project happens every year during Thanksgiving.

Adult coordinators pick up shoeboxes from local churches involved in this project in partnership with Samaritan's Purse. SSE students then get together at a designated time and location to assemble the gifts by filling the shoeboxes with essential items and a personal note to the recipient. The shoeboxes are labeled to indicate the appropriate age group and gender. The assembled shoeboxes are then dropped off at the local church, which then sends them to Samaritan’s Purse warehouses. The shoeboxes are carefully inspected in those warehouses and prepared for overseas shipment. 

This year the SSE kids put together 96 shoeboxes for girls aged 2 to 5 years. Each shoebox contained a comb, a toothbrush, hair ties, a jump rope, a coloring book and crayons, a stuffed toy, pencils, socks and a personal greeting card. The assembled shoeboxes were delivered to Bear Creek Community Church in Woodinville, Seattle.

Given the ongoing pandemic, the project coordinators took all the necessary safety precautions including wearing of face masks and setting up a schedule to minimize the number of SSE students present in the room during the service.

A parent shared their thoughts about the shoebox service: “It is an opportunity for children and adults alike to feel a sense of unity and reduce the feeling of aloneness during the pandemic. This service project provided that and allowed us to "Love all and serve all’”.

One of the adult coordinators shared:

“When my girls were younger, I would always look for projects they would be able to do with their little hands. Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, "Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray." When I came across the shoebox project, I got really excited because this is a perfect project that young children can fully participate in and make it their own. Even SSE nursery children were able to assemble 35 shoebox gifts on their own. Children as young as two years old have helped in packing the shoeboxes, making Christmas cards and putting stickers on those cards.  When parents sign up to purchase particular items, the children have another opportunity to be involved - going with their parents to the store and help in shopping for items.  The shoebox project truly teaches the children to have gratitude for everything they have in their lives.”