Started in 1993, Operation Christmas Child sends shoebox-filled gifts to children in impoverished countries (Courtesy: Deana Longland)

Operation Christmas Child returns this holiday season

Charity sends gifts to impoverished children in developing countries since 1993.

The sheer joy and wonder in the eyes of a child is a feeling for many of us that encompasses the spirit of Christmas.

Opening that box to reveal a new toy, a gaming console or the latest electronic device; the happiness and excitement is what brings warmth to someone’s heart.

Now imagine if that jubilation comes not from a new Playstation 5 or portable drone, but of a toothbrush, a pair of socks or a book.

This is the mission of Operation Christmas Child. Started by the charity Samaritan’s Purse in 1993, the program has sent almost 200 million “shoe boxes” of ordinary household items to young children in over 170 countries worldwide during Christmastime.

Past countries where local shoe boxes have been distributed include Latin American countries such as Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This year, for the first time, local boxes will be distributed to the Philippines and as well as the Ukraine.

Spearheading the local initative is Deana Longland. Having been involved in collection efforts for the past 14 Christmases, Longland has been to the central processing centre in Calgary and travelled to Costa Rica for a distribution trip, in 2008.

“These children are living in dire poverty. Some of them are living in refugee camps, or in war-torn countries,” says Longland. “They’ve never had a gift. This is one way we can show the children that people around the world do care and we are thinking of them.”

To participate, individuals must choose whether to fill a box of a girl or a boy. Next they must choose an age group, ranging from two to four, from five through nine and age 10-to-14. Next, donations must contain personal hygiene items, school supplies and a special “Wow” gift. These include a doll, a frisbee or a soccer ball.

“When a shoebox contains a soccer ball, you aren’t just giving it to that child but to the entire community,” Longland says. “Our children might not be interested in that toy. But it’s bringing them together to play a sport.”

This year’s collection week is Nov. 14 to 20. Shoeboxes can be picked up at St. Patrick’s Church, Christian Life Fellowship Church, Ocean Crest Community Church, Vineyard Church, Discovery Community Church, and Gateway Foursquare Church. In addition, you can also pick up donation shoeboxes at Willow Point Dollar Store and Dollar Tree.

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