Operation Christmas Child is done each year through Samaritan’s Purse and helps to distribute gifts to children in vulnerable locations around the world, who would not otherwise receive anything. Last year, the program helped to bring approximately 11 million shoeboxes filled with items to children of all ages in more than 100 countries.
Samaritan’s Purse (SP) is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization that has distributed over 168 million Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoeboxes since 1993. SP partners with operations that are already in place within each country to organize the distribution in a way that works for the people living there. “Religion does not play a factor in who gets a shoebox. Sometimes the gospel message is talked about if the community is open to it; however, it depends on each of the communities and what their beliefs are. The main purpose is about helping and it is based on need alone. They work with people in that country so it is done in a way that they are comfortable with and not just these foreigners coming in doing things how they would do it back home,” Lindsay Nemanishen, the SP liason for Martensville, explained.
For local residents, shoeboxes can be picked up at Pharmasave or the Dollar Store in Martensville. Each box comes with a pamphlet that includes information on what kind of items can be included, as well as the option to choose a boy or girl and a specific age range. “These are gifts to a child who may not have ever received a gift and it is amazing to see the pure joy on the faces of the kids as they open their gifts,” Nemanishen, who has been on several distributions through SP, added. Items that can be included in shoeboxes include: basic school supplies (pencils, crayons, notepads, solar calculators, etc.) colouring books, picture books, hygiene items (washcloths, bar of soap, toothbrushes, etc.) flip flops, clothing (T-shirts, hats, sunglasses, etc.), toys, hair ties, and much more. Nemanishen warns that liquids, lotions and food items are not recommended as they are difficult to get through customs in these countries. Also avoid including any toy guns and/or knives, as well as items with camouflage on them, as camouflage is often associated with bad people to the children. “Flip flops are a huge commodity for all of the kids because it is something that can grow with them and they will wear them until they cover only half of their foot. Another great option is an inflatable soccer ball with a pump. In some areas, they play soccer with garbage wrapped in branches, so to have a real ball is such a treat for them,” Nemanishen said.
If you are planning on sending a shoebox this year, Nemanishen noted that you can include a small letter or a photo of your family with your address on it, and if one of the SP workers notices, they can take a photo of the child with the box and send it back to the person that made the box. “For these kids, it doesn’t even seem to matter to them what is in the box, it always includes something that they were hoping for, and if there is something they can’t use, they are so excited to be able to share with someone else. It is absolutely inspiring to see.”
Another option for sending a shoebox can be found online at www.packabox.ca, where you can fill your own shoebox, or purchase a pre-packaged one.
Nemanishen, who has been involved with SP since 2016, felt that as her own children were growing up, she wanted to get more involved in overseas programs. Having grown up as a Missionary kid, Nemanishen has seen many areas of poverty around the world and knows how far small items can go for the people living in these places. “Seeing how this operation works firsthand is incredible. It really is just about who is in the most need, and to help them and support them. So much joy is brought to these people that have very little and it is a reminder of how fortunate we are and to be thankful for the things that we do have.”
National Collection Week for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes takes place from November 18-24 and filled boxes can be dropped off at the Martensville Baptist Church throughout these dates.
To learn more about Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child, visit https://www.samaritanspurse.ca/.