Pass the Parcel: Students stand in line to deliver Christmas boxes to Swaziland


Pupils at Bennett Memorial School set something of a record last week as they sent off nearly 1,400 boxes filled with Christmas gifts to children around the world.

On Thursday, over one hundred students with twelve members of staff, formed a line, passing along the boxes from the school to vehicles waiting outside the gates.

It is all part of Operation Christmas Child, an annual charity appeal where students are encouraged to fill an old shoebox with gifts and knick-knacks that they can pass on for a less privileged child to enjoy.

This year, the boxes made it just in time to be included in the first lorry full to leave the distribution centre on Cannon Lane, Tonbridge as just under 9,000 boxes left that night, making their way to Swaziland, in southern Africa.

ICT Teacher, Mr Franklin Osugo, is in charge of organising the school’s contribution to the appeal each year, which they have been supporting for the last nine years.

Over the past weeks, children have been encouraged to fill an old shoebox with gifts and knick-knacks that they can pass on for a less privileged child to enjoy.

He said: “Every year we set the students a challenge to create more boxes than the last. That challenge has been a steep one this year, with last year’s record set at over 1200 shoeboxes. This year once again surpassed last year’s total with a record 1370 boxes made.”

He added that the form class which makes the most boxes are awarded the ‘Big Heart Cup’. The numbers are still being added up this year, but last year’s winner reached 56, meaning some students donated multiple boxes each.

Deputy Head Girl, Ella Ridley, 17, said: “I really value this practical way in which I can do something to show a child who is less privileged than I am that other people in the world care about them and love them. It’s good fun at school too, working together to wrap the boxes and find the right gifts.”

At the other end of the school, Year 7 student Isabel Franklin, 12, explained how she made her box for a ‘boy aged five to nine’, adding: “We were told that our boxes tend to be sent to children in countries where it is quite cold and where they don’t always have warm homes to go back to, so I packed a woolly hat and gloves, a soft toy teddy bear, sanitary products and some pens, pencils and books in mine; along with a card with Christmas messages on.”

The appeal is organised by international charity the Samaritan’s Purse. It is supported by several other schools in the area, including Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys and Hugh Christie Technology College.

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