Happiness unboxed

Birthday box project brings joy to local families

Andreena (left) with daughter Renée
Credit: Andreena Leeanne Bogle-Walton

By Andreena Leeanne Bogle-Walton & Renée Walton, My Birthday Box

Almost a month into lockdown, I was talking to my daughter Renée about how she felt about not being able to celebrate her milestone 18th birthday with her friends.

We spoke about all the previous birthday celebrations she had had and spared a thought for all of those families out there who couldn’t afford to celebrate even if they wanted to because of a lack of funds.

My Birthday Box was created after this conversation, just a week before Renée’s birthday. The birthday boxes are white on the outside, lined with coloured tissue paper, and include crayons for the family to decorate the boxes if they choose to do so. We have thoughtfully included other things like happy birthday balloons, a banner, party blowouts, bubbles, vegan sweets and a blank card – all of the items are individually packed for hygiene reasons. It was important for us to make sure the boxes were gender neutral and that the products were safe for any child.

We have chosen to do this from a place of love, kindness and compassion, and we feel it is important for us to be transparent, especially as these boxes are being funded by members of the public via the Just Giving crowdfunder we set up to start our idea.

People from all walks of life including television personality, Vanessa Feltz, have generously donated their hard earned cash in these challenging times.

The birthday boxes at the North London Community Consortium

In the grand scheme of things although a birthday is an important occasion to many, it is down on the list of priorities when you don’t have much money and have to be careful to budget in order to focus on buying food and paying bills, especially during a global pandemic.

It is important to note that this birthday in a box concept is not new, but our version is our way of bringing joy to families living in Haringey, Waltham Forest, and Hackney, who are facing hardship.

To date we have made provisions via deliveries to food hubs and food banks across these boroughs, including: North London Community Consortium, Selby Food Hub and Tottenham Food Bank.

We decided to end the birthday box initiative once we achieved our target of preparing 200 boxes, but I am so pleased we decided to do it – we raised £1,568. Each day we realise more and more just how important these boxes are to the people who donated, and to the families who received them. Birthdays are special, children are special, and we think it’s important for children to mark their special occasion even in these uncertain times.

We hope to pass on what we have learnt so that others who have been inspired and want to continue this initiative in our absence can do so, as there will always be children having birthdays in households where a lack of money is an issue, even after the pandemic.

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