News & Events

Upholding and Advancing our Commitment to Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism

May 1, 2020

Illustration of a diverse group of women in various cultural attire with one woman in a wheelchair holding up a sign that says "love who she is".

The Shoebox Project recognizes that Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in Canada and around the world have been subjected to hundreds of years of systemic racism and oppression. While we continue to work to become an actively anti-racist organization, we feel it is important to be clear about where we stand. The Shoebox Project is, and has always been, an unaffiliated, non-religious charity that celebrates diversity and stands firmly against racism. We’d like to take this opportunity to share with you, our valued supporters, the ways we have promoted diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism in our organization to date, as well as the immediate steps that we will be taking to affect more meaningful and swifter change for BIPOC in Canada.

Fostering Inclusive Communities

We continually strive to promote equity and inclusion through our gift drives. Though our primary focus is on working with local shelters, we deliver gifts and other in-kind donations to any community service agency that serves women who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Shelters serving families, single women, seniors, youth, LGBTQ, refugees, victims of abuse,etc.
  • Immigrant, Refugee & Newcomer Welcome Programs
  • Community Health Centres
  • Indigenous Friendship Centres
  • Food Banks
  • Supportive & Transitional Housing Programs
  • Homeless Outreach Centres and Drop-ins
  • Mental Health and Addiction services
  • First Nations reserves

Since The Shoebox Project began in 2011, we've distributed over 240,000 gifts valued at 12 million dollars to local women impacted by homelessness. Because Black and Indigenous women are disproportionately impacted by poverty and homelessness, our work has had a significant impact in those communities:

  • In Canada, 28%-34% of shelter users are Indigenous
  • 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty in Canada, as opposed to 1 in 20 non-racialized families
  • 28.2% of those experiencing homelessness are members of racialized groups, compared to the Canadian average of 19.1%

Through our community gift drives, donors have an opportunity to connect with, and offer solidarity and support to, women impacted by homelessness in their own community. It is our hope that through messages of empathy, compassion and empowerment, the women who receive our gifts feel seen, respected and valued.

Supporting Indigenous Women

Over the past few years, we have increased support for Indigenous women across Canada. Our Aboriginal Women Fund, created in 2016, allows donors to support our efforts to get essential items to Indigenous women in more remote areas of Canada, where we have no volunteers on the ground and where rates of poverty, homelessness, suicide and addiction are particularly high. We also partner with a range of shelters and community organizations doing important work with Indigenous women to make sure we are contributing as much as possible to their advancement and success.

Responding to Crisis

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time since our charity’s inception, we made $50,000 in financial donations to Canadian shelters in lieu of in-kind donations. We became aware of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority groups and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we made the decision to direct all donations from our COVID Relief Fund to agencies serving Black and Indigenous women this summer, in addition to donations of masks, hand sanitizer and other essentials.

Learning, Listening, Growing

We are proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, but understand that we are certainly not immune to the systemic injustices that pervade our society, and we must continue in our work in the spirit of continuous improvement. In addition to the above efforts already in progress, we are making several new commitments to our loyal volunteers, donors, and supporters:

Improve Diversity at the Board Level:

  • We will immediately fill the vacant position on the Board of Directors and recruit one additional Board member for the 2020-2021 year – The Board will have an open call for applications, with a goal of recruiting two BIPOC candidates, whose voices are currently unrepresented on the Board.
  • We will have five additional vacancies on our Board over the next three years, all of which will be posted externally and circulated widely to encourage a diverse, qualified pool of applicants who reflect the communities we serve.
  • We will hire a third-party consultant as soon as financially feasible to review our organizational governance, to review and redefine our mission, vision, policies and procedures with an anti-oppression lens.

Create a More Diverse and Inclusive Workplace:

  • By widening our recruitment focuses we are seeking to elevate our outreach for increased diversity among Local Coordinators, support staff and management.
  • We are appealing for funding opportunities that support BIPOC employment to allow us to expand and diversify our team.
  • We will make our workplace culture more inclusive. By creating more opportunities for open dialogue and discussion regarding race with all members of our team and volunteer base, we can ensure everyone’s voice, views and ideas are accounted for.

Foster anti-racist communities:

  • Within the next year, we will re-design and expand our Schools program to include more education and awareness for students of different ages around race & gender issues as they relate to poverty and homelessness across Canada.
  • We will seek out Black & Indigenous owned businesses to partner with and promote
  • We will increase outreach to shelters and community agencies serving Black and Indigenous women impacted by homelessness to improve support across all communities.
  • We will amplify Black and Indigenous voices through our social media and community partnerships.

The Shoebox Project has a long-standing commitment, with both impact and actions, to promoting supportive and inclusive communities but we know we have much more to do to create meaningful and lasting change for BIPOC - especially for women. We will continue to be guided by our values and we will hold ourselves accountable to our volunteers, donors, and the wonderful communities that we serve.

“Two years ago, I met a woman working at a non-profit organization who had been homeless just a couple of years prior. She thanked me for a Shoebox she had received as a gift during that difficult time in her life, as it provided her with a moment of holiday joy. This exchange meant so much to me because it’s exactly what we hoped to accomplish when we started The Shoebox Project 10 years ago. The Shoebox Project started as a small idea, something that my family could do to help others. But it’s mission of connecting people to one another and bringing joy drew people in and led to the creation of a charity that provides gifts to women and girls in shelters — first across Canada, and now in other countries around the world. To this day, I still marvel about how such a simple idea grew into something I could never have dreamed of and one that has impacted so many in need.”

- Caroline Mulroney Lapham, Co-Founder
“Looking back after 10 years, I could have never dreamed of how the Shoebox Project would resonate around the world. The growth of our charity is due entirely to our incredible team of sponsors, coordinators and volunteers, without whom we would be exactly where we were in year one. When imagining Shoebox project ten years from now, I am torn. Ideally there would be no need for what we do. But until that day comes, we will be here, bringing a little bit of joy into the lives of those who deserve it most.”

- Jessica Mulroney, Co-Founder
"After our first year, I realized we had started something really special. We had reached out to a few friends and the response was overwhelming. It was still a small-scale operation but we were able to help people give love and necessities to women in need. There are so many women in shelters who have suffered immensely, and making someone feel loved and supported by their communities can have profound effects. I look forward to the next 10 years and expanding our mission!"

- Katy Mulroney, Co-Founder
“My fondest memory of us starting up The Shoebox Project is delivering boxes with my niece Thea directly to shelters. I loved the moments when we were all together, packing the boxes with our family & volunteers in Ben & Jessica’s garage. I also have always loved getting emails over the years from moms who enjoyed making these boxes with their children, and teaching them the importance of what they were doing. These notes & thoughts are special and show just how much love goes into each Shoebox.  The grassroots nature of The Shoebox Project resonates with me most… How happy & special one of these boxes makes someone feel, perhaps when they need it most. Hopefully The Shoebox Project continues to grow without ever losing what makes it special. It’s global now, but it remains one person making an effort for someone they don’t know - Someone in need of the warmth and love that these Shoeboxes bring. We all know this is more important today than ever. The Shoebox Project is always top of mind. I enjoy connecting brands to the charity via our business Power of Privé, especially to raise funds and enhancing the profile of The Shoebox Project.”

- Vanessa Mulroney, Co-Founder