Ever since I can remember, Christmas has always been full of sweet childhood memories. We would gather with family for special dinners, decorate the Pine tree, and volunteer our time. It is safe to say, even though my parents bought us a small gift to open Christmas morning, they put more emphasis on teaching us the values of kindness and being of service. For the past few years, our family has filled and packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, an initiative organized by an International relief organization called Samaritan’s Purse.
As a matter of fact, anyone can pack and give a shoebox filled with school supplies, toiletries, toys etc. Here is a list of the Top 100 Shoebox items.
This year, the shoe boxes are going to children living in Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Ukraine.
Smiles, smiles and more smiles
Many people ask us how we discovered this shoebox project.
First and foremost, I have to say it all began with a child’s smile.
Back in 2007, I volunteered with vulnerable groups (such as the elderly and those infected with HIV) living in refugee camps. One day, a huge container truck pulled up. The giant back door opened and to my surprise, I saw what appeared to be hundreds of red and green coloured shoe boxes. As volunteers, we gave a shoebox filled with gifts to each child. You could see the excitement in the kids faces as they struggled to line up and wait patiently for their gifts.
I will never forget what came next.
As the children started to open their shoeboxes, one by one, laughter ensued along with lots of big smiles. The children were overjoyed to receive the presents. One of the kids, explained they were “happy because someone cared enough to send them these blessings.” Those words have always resonated in my heart.
Life is all about the simple things that matter the most
To witness the joy these children felt are beyond words. It made me realize how a simple act of kindness can change the world for the better. It can put smiles on the faces of everyone involved, from the donor to the recipient.
Thus, that is why every November, we make it a family tradition to host a packing party; full of eating, sharing, connecting and organizing shoeboxes for children all over the world.
What to teach children about random acts of kindness and volunteering?
That it comes from the heart. I think our toddler is starting to figure out what it means to help others through the act of giving. Just by using basic examples of sharing helps him to understand. Of course, there are many ways to do this however, volunteering with Operation Christmas Child works for us. Throughout the year, we encourage our toddler to be kind to others and donate any toys to other charitable organizations.
Operation Christmas Child is a meaningful activity our family can do together. Our toddler enjoys picking items to put into the shoebox. As much as he wants the items for himself, he knows it will bring some happiness to another person. He seems to understand this concept as we emphasize the importance of kindness and giving.
How you can help Operation Christmas Child
- Fill and pack a shoebox for a child in need. Deliver it to the collection centre
- Volunteer at the collection warehouse to inspect and package shoeboxes
- Make a donation to fund medical and water projects, Rohingya and Caribbean relief, as well as women’s and food projects
Two years ago, my husband and I volunteered at the local distribution warehouse in Oakville to process the shoeboxes. Boy, was it an experience! This year, I will be volunteering at the warehouse in Guelph to inspect the boxes. A lot of time, love and effort goes into each shoebox. I will post photos and share my experience after time spent volunteering.
Pack a shoe box of hope for a child in need
It’s been 10 years since I volunteered in Uganda. Moreover, each time I fill a shoebox, I imagine the happy faces. It’s the little things like pencils and teddy bears that can make a child’s day. If you’re interested in packing a shoebox for a child in need, there is still time to do so. In Canada, the collection dates are from November 13th-19th.
We love to volunteer as a family and always looking for organizations that need a helping hand. If you know of any local or international charities to support, we would to hear from you in the comments below. Thank you.
Darlynne founded Live Love Backpack to inspire others to make a positive difference in the world through traveling, volunteering, and self-awareness. Darlynne has traveled to over 76 countries. Family adventures include backpacking off the beaten path, hiking in Ontario and creating happy memories.