A toothbrush or socks may seem like everyday items, but they could make an immense difference for a child in the developing world.
Operation Christmas Child, a yearly initiative by the charity, Samaritan’s Purse, is launching once again this holiday season to provide care packages to those in need abroad. Since 1993, the program has sent over 188 million “shoe boxes” filled with items to children across 170 countries worldwide.
This effort works by participants packing a box and then dropping it off at a distribution centre, where it is then checked and sent to a developing nation to be given to a matching child. This year in Campbell River, boxes are being accepted at the Discovery Community Church from Nov. 15 to 21.
Deana Longland, who has helped organize the collection centre here since 2008, is helping lead the local charge once again. Longland has seen the impact the program makes firsthand, after she and her daughter travelled to Costa Rica in 2013 with the charity.
“In this one place we were giving boxes, it was really hot and we were in this building with cement floors and metal roofs. There were probably about 130 children in that building, and they’re all singing on the floor, just patiently waiting for their box,” she said. “The big smiles and the excitement was incredible.”
Instructions to complete the box are available on the website of Samaritan’s Purse. Boxes are available at local churches, the Willow Point Dollar Store and at Dollar Tree in the Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre.
Participants first select from three age groups and whether they want to give it to a boy or a girl.
While selecting items, they should include some basic hygiene items, such as soap and a toothbrush, and school supplies. After that, choosing with what to fill the box is up to them.
“Each box is very individualized — people should fill their shoe boxes with what’s in their heart,” said Longland.
Longland asks participants to include a “wow item” in the box.
“If you put in a soccer ball with a pump, that would be something that child could use but would also bring together all the kids,” she said. “Or maybe you put in a few basic tools, a hat or some sunglasses. I also always try to include a toy that’s sort of just for them too.”
A $10 donation is required to be included with each shoe box, which is used to transport the boxes to each destination country. Boxes can be put together online or items may be donated individually too.
Longland recommends also adding a personal touch to the shoe box, such as including a photo.
“The children really love it if people take a few extra minutes and just write a little card or a little note and put a picture in with their note,” she said. “It just gives a face to whoever was thinking about them — most of these children have never had a present before.”