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The joy of giving

by Sherie Holder-Olutayo

The joy of giving

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Sometimes in life we are unaware of the effects events in our childhood have on us until we get older. Julia Robinson knows this all too well. The Barbadian native who currently resides in Maryland in the United States can recount the number of Christmases she spent in her homeland without any toys. It was because of that that she started a foundation to provide toys for economically disadvantaged children at Christmas.
“One of the things that made me decide to do this was that we were poor growing up,” Julia recalled. “My mother had 13 children and we never really had any toys.”
But what spurred Julia into action came one day when she tuned in to hear popular local DJ, Cupid on his programme.
“I was tuned into Cupid and I was listening to oldies when it dawned one me,” Julia said. “Why don’t you get some toys collected for kids in Barbados.”
 Julia didn’t stop there. She immediately set a plan of action and called Cupid.
 “I told him I wanted to give toys to 50 kids,” she said. “He thought it was a great idea and told me he would talk to the Child Care Board. So my son and I went out and bought all these toys out of our own money and packed them in suitcases and came down to Barbados and gave them away.”
After a successful inaugural run, Julia decided she wanted to do it again. This wasn’t just solely Julia alone, she got some help from her husband and son.
“The second year we decided to make it official and make it bigger,” she said.  “We decided to call it the Robinson Smiles Foundation, and we provided toys for 100 kids.”
 After seeing the joy she was bringing to the lives of children, Julia felt compelled to keep going.
“The third year which was last year we bought 250 toys,” Julia said smiling. “My husband and I had so much luggage we had to come on separate flights.”
With the increasing number of toys when this Christmas was approaching Julia decided to find a new mode of transportation for the toys.
“This year I told all my friends and people at my church, and they provided us with so many toys. We decided to ship them in boxes ahead of our arrival,” Julia said. “Cupid did all the sorting of the presents along with some staffers at Starcom because we didn’t get them out the port until the Tuesday before Christmas. They were over 1 000 toys.”
With the increase in the number of toys, Julia decided to really spread the joy of Christmas around the island.
“We went to the QEH and gave toys to the kids on the children’s ward,” Julia said. “All the toys that we gave out to children this year were donated. I can’t believe it has blossomed to something this big in a short space of time.”
But Julia’s giving back to help those in need in her island, isn’t only reserved for Christmas. She has helped several people who are less fortunate on the island providing clothing, school supplies and last year she donated books to Holy Innocents’ School.
“I even had the pleasure of taking this lady who was in need in Barbados grocery shopping,” Julia added. “She believed God had sent this person from Maryland to buy her groceries. I let her pick up the items she wanted and I paid for them.”
 For Julia, her philanthrophy wasn’t something she had planned, she just came up with the idea to give children toys for Christmas and the growth has simply blossomed over the years.
“Life is simple, and you don’t really need a whole lot of stuff,” Julia said. “Besides nothing makes me feel better than giving back, especially to children. It makes me feel really blessed.”