Toys are the last things on the minds of homeless children who live at the beach, in a car or in the woods, says nonprofit Project Hawaiʻi director Magin Patrick. Their Christmas wish lists are filled with items like clothes, shoes, or hygiene products, especially for older kids who don’t want to worry about cleanliness or their appearance when they go to school with other kids.
“Are they going to get shampoo in this bag? That’s what they ask for,” says Patrick, and goes on to describe one girl who shares a towel with her two brothers. “She’s not asking for money to go to the movies, she’s asking for towels because she doesn’t have her own.”
Project Hawaiʻi has been helping homeless children since 2002, providing basic necessities and educational support to children on Oahu and Hawaii Island. It specifically works with kids who are not in shelters, and won’t turn anyone away. Last year at Christmastime, it helped 78 homeless kids in Kakaako and 650 kids on the west side of Oahu. Patrick does outreach at homeless camps prior to the organization’s Christmas drives to document the number of kids that need assistance, but they always prepare for more kids than what they have counted. The numbers change frequently, she says, due to families moving around and some kids who appear unexpectedly.
From now through December 14, the nonprofit is looking for donors and child sponsors to help with this year’s Christmas drive.
“In order to sponsor a child, it’s not bring your unwrapped toy,” says Patrick, “It’s more like, choose a child in an age group and I’ll tell you what they want.”
She then sends the child’s wish list in an email and provides some background information to give an overall view of the child’s current living situation. Sometimes, Patrick says, sponsors are overwhelmed by the child’s wish lists depending on how needy the kid is, but sponsors can decide how much they’re willing to spend. A full outfit is the minimum requirement, with shoes if possible. Those items, she says, could run anywhere from $20 to $25 dollars. Companies, or groups of people, are also encouraged to help fulfill a child’s wish list.
“Christmas really takes a lot of community support to provide for the kids on our list,” says Patrick.
For information on how you can help, visit the Project Hawaiʻi website.