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a young person smiles as they hold a shoebox of supplies

Customs’ hold-ups prompts rethink ​for Rotary Shoebox Scheme

The Rotary Shoebox Scheme has discontinued sending baby boxes to ​disadvantaged families.

Originally started by Rotary clubs in north-west England in 1994, the Rotary ​Shoebox Scheme was set up to provide children in north-east Romania with ​Christmas gifts.

Each year the Rotary Shoebox scheme sends around 50,000 shoeboxes filled ​with essential supplies and gifts, such as toothpaste, soap and toys.

However, the organisation reports that they have been having increasing ​problems with Customs officers in countries where the goods have been ​received.

Trustee Clive Gardiner reported: “We have suffered fines and delays as Customs ​raise their importing requirement standards and as such, we must apply stricter ​rules of what is acceptable, and boxes that fall short of the required ​standards cannot be dispatched.”

two young people smiling whilst opening their Rotary shoeboxes

Each year the Rotary Shoebox scheme sends around 50,000 shoeboxes filled with essential supplies ​and gifts, such as toothpaste, soap and toys.

This has led to some rules which Rotary Soapbox Scheme have had to adhere to:

  • All toys and clothes must now be new.
  • Items with expiry dates found on some household and personal care items ​must have minimum of six months left. Customs on arrival insists items must ​have three months left – but collection, sorting and delivery can take several ​months.
  • No food of any kinds, which includes all sweets, chocolate etc.

As a result, the Rotary Shoebox Scheme has decided to discontinue baby boxes. ​Clive explained that there was less demand for them now, and customs are ​extremely picky about any content, driven by safety and health concerns for the ​very young.

He added: “We appreciate this will take some time to fully implement as new ​boxes sent will for a time, still include the option, and of course customers will ​have some in stock. If you could strike them out on the lid before distribution it ​would be very helpful. Any you have back already can still be returned to us.

“We regularly receive shipments back of completed boxes, from which we must ​reject up to 20% for the reasons above, or they have not been filled.

“It would be immensely helpful to us if you could check box contents before ​requesting a collection. It has become a very serious problem for us as we do not ​have enough volunteers to inspect every box.”

For more details about the Rotary Shoebox Scheme, log onto their website.

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