Santa Shoebox makes solar wishes a reality in rural South Africa

We’d like to take the chance to say thank you again to all those of you who donated so generously last Christmas to the Santa Shoebox Project. We’ve now received pictures and words of thanks back from the communities who received the lamps so we wanted to share the smiles with you here!

For those who don’t know about the project, last Christmas Santa Shoebox Project and Little Sun teamed up with our Solar Wishes campaign to bring solar light to students in rural South Africa. From 1 November to 24 December 2016, supporters could purchase Little Suns online which then went to where they are most needed in off-grid areas.

In total, 1395 Little Sun solar lamps were donated through the Santa Shoebox community and Little Sun. They have now been hand-delivered by Santa Shoebox Project, to children living in some of South Africa’s most remote areas such as Hoedspruit, Calvinia and Matatiele where few homes are connected to the electrical grid. Not being connected to the grid results in communities being isolated and left in darkness at night, leading to severe social problems. Dangerous forms of light are used in place of electricity, which results in health problems, burns and regular shack fires.

The distribution was facilitated through Santa Shoebox and 15 of their beneficiary organisations like Eco-Kids in Hoedspruit and Laerskool Elandsvlei in Calvinia.

Nicolette van der Merwe, school principal at Laerskool Elandsvlei, Calvinia, was so happy to see the Little Suns being used by her pupils. She says the lamps help them to walk home safely after school as it gets dark in the area quite early, and that she already sees an improvement in homework. Below, you can read her words on the impact of the lamps on the whole community.

“We had a parents meeting last night. It is now getting dark quite early and it was so nice to see children and parents attending the meeting – walking to school and back home using the Little Sun lights. We also see an improvement in homework being done in the last month or so. I thought you would like the nice feedback seeing that we are in a community where there is no electricity.”

“We have a school on our farm. Our nearest towns are Calvinia (120 km) and Ceres (160 km). We have no Eskom electricity on the farm. I am privileged to have solar power at my house for lighting; for other things we use a generator. None of the workers in the area on the farms have any power at their houses, so obviously the Little Suns that people received help them all so much.

I have a 7-month old baby and 3-year-old twins. This morning I had to leave the house at 5 o’clock to take our High School farm kids to Calvinia. The lady who looks after my baby had to come in that early; luckily she lives near me. She walked to my house with her little boy’s light and asked me to drop it at her house with her boys when I passed her house on my way out of the farm.

It is such a privilege to be part of your project.”


– Nicolette van der Merwe, school principal at Laerskool Elandsvlei

Thank you again to all of you who were involved in making this project a success. We look forward to the next project this Christmas!


About Santa Shoebox Project

The Santa Shoebox Project is a trusted not-for-profit organization, beloved in South Africa. Santa Shoebox is powered by an extensive network of over 46,000 supporters who pack 100,000 personalized gift boxes yearly for underprivileged children who otherwise would not receive gifts in the festive holiday season.