Spreading happiness one shoe box at a time

Reading time approx. 3 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Samaritan’s Purse, Quehenberger

Holger Philipowski, Branch Manager of Quehenberger Logistics DE GmbH, helps ensure that hundreds of thousands of boxes full of presents are distributed every year to children in need around the world: He organises the transport for the “Weihnachten im Schuhkarton” (Christmas in a Shoe Box) campaign from Berlin to Eastern European countries, thereby showing how logistics does good.

A cuddly toy, coloured pencils, sweets, a scarf: Every year, “Weihnachten im Schuhkarton (Christmas in a Shoe Box)” shows how much these little things can make children’s eyes light up. Around the world, children in need receive a shoe box full of happiness as part of the campaign in December. Some of them have never gotten a present before and so they experience a true “Christmas miracle”. Many people are involved in making the campaign possible: donors who assemble parcels and volunteers who sort and load them. In the end, logisticians organise the transport to the countries where the boxes are distributed to the children. One of them is Holger Philipowski, Branch Manager at Quehenberger Logistics DE GmbH: He started getting involved with the initiative 16 years ago.

“Christmas Workshop” in Berlin

At that time, he met the logistics manager of the Samaritan’s Purse initiative at a trade fair. “What united us was our understanding of how logistics works in the target countries of ‘Christmas in a Shoe Box’ and how to talk to the people involved on the ground,” he says. The people who receive the aid shipments are usually people in church offices – “and as such are not experts in customs, import law and logistics”. Last season, 10,5050,155 shoe boxes were packed worldwide – almost 390,000 of them in German-speaking countries. They are bundled in larger moving boxes and consolidated in collection centres like the one in Berlin, where Samaritan’s Purse runs a “Christmas Workshop”. Quehenberger’s lorries, many of them equipped with BPW running gears, then transport 756 moving boxes and thus up to 9,000 gift boxes for children.

»As a young man, I used to always watch the show ‘Auf Achse’, and I was impressed by how adventurous the life of a long-distance lorry driver seemed. Even if a lot of things were exaggerated: at least you don’t have experiences like that when you only drive one pallet to Belgium.«

Holger Philipowski, Branch Manager, Quehenberger Logistics DE GmbH

“For the transport, we prepare numerous documents such as CMR waybills, gift certificates and customs papers according to Samaritan’s Purse’s specifications. Since volunteers take on the task of loading the lorries, we have to keep to tight time windows at the loading point,” reports Philipowski about the challenges of the project. At the end of the 1980s, the TV series “Auf Achse” with Manfred Krug brought him to the transport business: “I used to watch it as a young man, and I was impressed by how adventurous the life of a long-distance lorry driver seemed. Even if many things were exaggerated, you don’t usually have experiences like that when you’re just driving a pallet to Belgium.”

»The world of logistics is diverse – and provides creative solutions for a better world.«

Holger Philipowski, Branch Manager, Quehenberger Logistics DE GmbH

Creativity needed over anything else

Quehenberger Logistics is part of the Augustin Quehenberger Group, headquartered in Austria. The owner-managed medium-sized logistics company has 94 branches in 15 countries and is a specialist for destinations in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. In his position, Holger Philipowski has also specialised in transports to Eastern Europe for a long time. Creativity is needed here above all, he explains. “In these countries, we have to be particularly flexible in adapting to the local conditions. The acceptance of customs documents often depends on the counterpart, and communication in advance with the recipients is also not always easy.” His team generally does not work for large companies that need standard transports. “Our services are for sensitive clients, goods and destinations. Among other things, we drive transports for the German Foreign Office, the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief and pharmaceutical companies such as Stada or high-value goods such as cigarettes, spirits and data storage devices. These are transports where everything is handmade and we handle every pallet with kid gloves.” For him, logistics is a people business in which you have to know the needs of everyone involved in order to be able to respond to them individually. “It’s much more than just transporting from A to B. The world of logistics is diverse – and provides creative solutions for a better world. The logistics world is colourful – and provides creative solutions for a better world.”
Our involvement with the “Christmas in a Shoe Box” campaign is one component of this. Why are he and his team involved? “Because it’s a wonderful way to do good as an individual,” says Philipowski. For him, this can always be seen in a very real way as early as autumn: still quite a while away from Christmas, the parcels pile up higher and higher in a corner of his meeting room. “There’s something very fulfilling about mere sight of that.” And when he then sees the videos from Samaritan’s Purse of the parcels being handed over and the children’s happiness upon receiving the presents, it becomes clear to him every time: “These gifts hit home.”

The association “Samaritan’s Purse – The Good Samaritans” is behind the “Christmas in a Shoe Box” campaign and helps young and adult people in need. It works closely with local parishes and local partners in the project countries. In addition to about 40 full-time employees, about 10,000 volunteers support the campaigns.

Anyone who wants to take part in “Christmas in a Shoe Box” can, for example, pack a box themselves start in mid-October: Donors are asked to stuff it with a mixture of new items, from clothes, hygiene articles and school materials to cuddly toys and sweets. A personal greeting and photo can also be included. Furthermore, a donation of ten euros per child to be gifted is recommended, as the money is used for transport, support of volunteers, public relations and quality assurance. Until mid-November, the parcels can then be handed over in person at numerous locations; alternatively, they can be sent by post until mid-December. Any parcels that arrive late are stored for the following year. There is also the option to have parcels packed online.

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