Operation Christmas Child aiming high this season

This year Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is hoping to send 70,000 shoeboxes full of essential items to Haiti, as well as still contributing to the boxes donated to other communities.

Carla Bregani, communications advisor, said the important part about OCC is helping people share their love with children overseas and spreading hope and joy through what would be considered a simple gift.

“These children are living in situations of famine and poverty so they’re receiving a gift for possibly the first time that could change their lives.”

Bregani said the school supplies are an important aspect of the shoeboxes because they can be the difference between a child being able to attend school or not.

“Soap and toothbrushes and face cloths are also important because we want these children to know that poverty doesn’t mean indignity.”

Bregani also said that toys and hard candies are favourite items in the boxes and that children often become attached to a simple stuffed animal as a loved security item.

Last year OCC collected 640,000 shoeboxes in Canada and 8.2 million worldwide. Since 1993, OCC has provided 86 million boxes to developing countries around the world.

“We send to a lot of African countries, particularly French speaking areas as well as Central and South America. Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Argentina are all common recipients and now Haiti too for sure.”

Bregani was able to go to one of the sites when the boxes were delivered and said there was a bit of confusion at first because many of the children haven’t received gifts before. “Then they do a countdown and they start opening and it gets louder and louder. Some close their boxes right away to take them home or they’ll pull things out.”

Hats are put on, shirts are held up, letters are read and photos are shared as the boxes are opened.

“This is also a great opportunity to teach children here in Canada about the power of giving and a time to know you’ve had an impact on children overseas,” she said.

Local contact Karla Rosenkranz said that for some families this can become a great tradition of donating.

“If we can get the next generation thinking about others across the world then great. It’s great to give to someone else and not always get a thank you. It’s a great lesson.”

Boxes can be picked up at Sunny 94 in Lacombe, Kraze 101.3 in Red Deer as well as CrossRoads Church and Scott’s Parables. Plastic totes the size of a shoebox can also be purchased to fill.

Collection dates for the boxes are Nov. 25 from noon to 5 p.m., Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Nov. 28 from 3 to 7 p.m. at CrossRoads Church.

“I think one key piece of advice is that a box should be balanced with health care and hygiene items and school supplies and toys,” said Rosenkranz.

Some items suggested include soap, facecloths, notebooks, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, hard candies and simple toys. Boxes can be made up for boys or girls and labels are then applied for distribution purposes.

“We also love it when we see that people have written a note or sent a picture. You can even attach your return address and I’ve heard stories of people getting letters back.”

Rosenkranz said anyone can take part in the program and really get creative in how they decorate their shoebox.

“This is bringing people together all over the world. If you think you can only do one or two boxes and that it won’t make a difference, just remember there are hundreds of people saying they can only do one or two.”

Visit www.samaritanspurse.ca and click on the link for OCC.