This year has sped by with several important changes that have challenged our Board of Directors. The first concern was our discovery that many of our socks that are shipped or carried abroad are not reaching their destinations and despite extra security measures, are being sold commercially in these developing countries in their original Chinese take-out decorated containers. We have been told that the reasons for this thievery comes from the fact that the intermediaries who intercept our socks think that the hand decorated packaging is so cute and unique, that these socks and their boxes are very sell-able. This result has cause meeting after meeting by our Board of Directors and team leaders to determine an alternate means of delivery.
Our first idea was that since so many mothers of volunteers are very good seamstresses, that we try and ship our new pairs of socks without the decorated boxes and simply ship them in nondescript plain cotton bags that have handles on them or banding on them so that they can also be carried on the heads of many of the native people to whom we ship our socks, who are used to transporting large items on the top of their heads.
Our premise is that as we ship these items into various ports, we do anything we can to draw attention away from what we are shipping so that there is less theft and thievery by those who are working at the various ports throughout Asia, Africa, and South America.
For example, we are still blessed to have certain discreet personnel from the Navy ship our socks aboard Navy jets heading to Afghanistan so that the children in the orphanages and schools there that we support can receive our socks. Generally, in the past, we have put all the new socks in cartons, and sometimes we have left them in their special decorated boxes. Sometimes, as well, we have shipped the socks in plain brown cartons that resemble navy supply boxes. If it turns out that Navy personnel cannot personally deliver our socks, a good portion of the time we have to rely on agents of the schools and orphanages to personally deliver the socks. Often times, for reasons upon which we can only speculate, our deliveries have not made their destination.
Another example is what has occurred In Conakry, Guinea, on the west coast of Africa where we have tried to ship socks to people high up in the mountains who were or have been struck ill from the terrible disease of Ebola. After shipping almost a thousand pair of socks to Guinea, we were told that some of our recipients from our last shipment before this particular one, saw our socks for sale in local markets all over the capital city. Even more disappointing, the socks were being sold on the black market there for three to four times their actual cost—for sometimes as much as twenty dollars for a simple pair of white socks.
Obviously, our Team Leaders and Board of Directors have to come up with the solution to stop this pilfering world wide. We have been told that it is a common problem that all non-profits face but it is both a challenging problem and a sad and disappointing problem as well. We strongly feel it is one thing if desperate people steal our socks because they badly need them. It is quite another problem if people are taking them for the sole purpose of reselling them to make a profit from the poor people who need them in the first place.
Another important topic raised during our last Board of Directors’ meeting has to do with the focus and direction that our non-profit takes year after year. Everyone who has volunteered at Sox In A Box since 2001 knows that we try and focus on a major foreign country that has experienced the most challenges during the particular year in question. It goes without saying that our primary focus will always be the United States first and foremost, as we have shown by our continued attempts to start new sock drives at major colleges and universities though out the country…not counting the volunteer sock drives started at many middle schools and high schools all over our amazing country. In addition, because San Diego always has been the main hub of our organization and is almost a springboard into Mexico because of its proximity to the Mexican border, there is no question that we have been able to target and most benefit the orphanages, ranches, and centers of poverty stricken people that are scattered in Baja California and northern Mexico near Houston because they are needy areas closest to us.
However, this past year, 2016 has been all about helping the poor people of Syria who are living in war torn conditions, sometimes in camps, sometimes without any food or shelter for days. The weather can be bitingly cold desert like conditions and the mountains in Syria near its coast can be treacherous to transverse. Even in the major villages and towns, people are going without food, medical care, places to sleep, and are scared to walk the streets because of the bombing and killing of innocent people that are taking place on a daily basis. Because of this adversity, our Board of Directors voted to release our socks in bags and send them directly to the Red Cross and United Nations in hopes that they will reach anyone in need. We have been fortunate this year to locate several students from Syria who have helped us translate all the letters of good will that our middle school and high school kids have written. Each pair of socks that we sent out this year was accompanied by letters of hope and wishes that we pray will have reached the people of Syria who are suffering greatly from one of the world’s greatest examples of annihilation and human suffering.
I want to take this time to salute the hundreds of people, young and old, who came out to help up this year and all the young children in middle school and high school who collected socks and decorated our boxes. You are the sweetest of God’s children and you are the reason why our country will continue to flourish despite its many challenges and obstacles. To all the churches and religious entities who have conducted sock drives on our behalf and written the sweetest letters of hope imaginable, please know that God will always shine his light on you all because you are truly God’s special children. You all are also an enormous testament to the fact that there is nothing that we can’t accomplish when we all work together for the good of mankind. To our team leaders, our teams, and to even the kids and parents that have come out only once or twice this year to help, it takes a village and without you all helping out in a hundred different ways, please know that we could not survive without your contributions of time and effort; your novel ideas; your positive attitudes and amazing spirit; your laughter and joy; and the countless hours that you gave us when you could be out enjoying yourselves or doing something important for yourself or your family.
For those of you who contributed thousands of pairs of new socks to our organization, words cannot properly express what your generosity has contributed to thousands of people in need all over the world. If we are to stop the inhumanity and the suffering in this world whether from the evils of war or from the natural disasters of the world stemming from earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes, if we all are willing to band together regardless of our different backgrounds, we can find the ways and means to make better the lives of people of the thousands upon thousands of people in this world who have so little compared to us.
Our focus for 2017 and beyond will be finding ways that we can not only send socks to people in need but also send and include protein bars or other transportable types of food that will give needy people something to eat for at least several days at a time. We will also hope to partner with organizations that will help us advance the idea of sustainability, that is, that people in the remote regions of the world will be taught to weave their own socks and clothes and grow their own food so that lack of warmth in freezing temperatures and hunger in their starving bellies that causes terrible suffering and malnutrition will become relics of the distant past.
All the teams at Sox In A Box join me in wishing you all a safe, healthy, joyous, and exciting New Year!
Love and laughter to all!