This holiday season the YMCA Academy community came together to support woman impacted by homelessness by creating gift-filled shoeboxes. Students first learned about homelessness in Canada and then brainstormed what gifts women would want and need. Each advisory group decorated a shoebox, wrote a card with an inspiring message, and filled their box with thoughtful gifts to make a woman feel special.

The Shoebox Project for Women operates throughout Canada and the United States, delivering gift-filled shoeboxes to women in need. In Toronto the shoeboxes are distributed to women accessing a variety of services such as the YMCA Women’s Shelter, CAMH, Native Women’s Resource Centre, Covenant House etc. The aim of the project is to remind women that they have not been forgotten and that they are a valued and respected member of their community.

This project aligns with the YMCA’s core values and provided many benefits for our students including:

  • helping them to dissect the complex issues surrounding poverty and homelessness, particularly as they relate to women;
  • teaching them to challenge stigmas and stereotypes;
  • fostering empathy and understanding;
  • promoting community engagement and volunteerism.

It was great to hear students asking thoughtful questions about homelessness and to see them taking time to draw pictures and write kind words for their shoebox recipient. Through this project we have supported women in need, but also supported our students to be more engaged citizens.

We had so many generous gift donations that we were able to create an extra box (so 11 in total!) and make a donation of additional items to a shelter. So, thank you to everyone who helped make this project a success and we hope to make this an annual tradition.

Students participate in the Shoebox Project!

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