Operation Christmas Child: Never Underestimate the Power of a Shoe Box

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

shoeboxes, christmas, operation christmas child, poverty, hope, volunteer, donate

shoeboxes, christmas, operation christmas child, poverty, hope, volunteer, donate

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.

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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.

If you have time to volunteer at Samaritan’s Purse, please click here to find out more information.

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. 

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Author: Darlynne

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.

11 Replies to “Operation Christmas Child: Never Underestimate the Power of a Shoe Box”

  1. When I was little the only toys I had access to were a few colourful plastic soldiers between me and my brother. They gave me so much joy. There are so many people out there who have nothing. Every shoebox helps – thanks for doing it dear!

    1. Hi! Thanks for sharing your childhood memory. It feels good to give and help others.

  2. Fabulous idea to give back to the future leaders, our children. These little gifts mean so much and do teach kindness no matter what age.

    I would like to participate. Where do I get the shoe boxes? Can I use my own boxes?

    1. Hi Joy. Glad to hear that you’re interested in a good cause. Yes, you can use the standard shoe box. Where are you located? If you live in Canada, please visit http://www.samaritanspurse.ca to find information to pick-up and drop off boxes.

  3. Never heard of this Samaritam Purse before, I’m glad that you blogged about it as there are so many organizations out there. I like the ideas about packing gifts as a family and giving it to others in need. It’s not easy to find volunteer positions to do as a family. This is a good start.

    We like to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and build houses with our teenagers. It is very rewarding.

    1. It’s true Delia, sometimes it takes a lot of time and research to find the appropriate volunteer project for the family. Since we have a toddler, it can be more challenging to find one which is suitable. I’m happy to hear you got the chance to volunteer with your teenagers. I’ve volunteered on a global build for Habitat for Humanity India and found it rewarding as well. Feel free to share any organizations that have volunteer ops for families. Would love to hear from you.

  4. Darlynne, volunteering had been engraved in your heart from a very young age . If you remember the times you had no babysitter, your mother would take you to work at the hosp.You were able to observe the different kinds of needs of an individual such as physical, mental, emotional, etc .You were not aware you were doing it . You were able to interact with old war veterans and met their needs by just talking to them pushing their wheelchairs or just even smiling,they were so happy. Some of them never experienced living with grandchildren.

    One time a veteran observed you kissing your mother at the nursing station while he was sitting in his wheelchair in the hallway. He said,”it must be nice to be kissed. Your mom told you to go and kiss him on his forehead.
    When you were in the elementary school, you helped children in the neighbourhood, by teaching them how to play the piano, or babysitting them without charging them. You were encouraged by your parents just to help.

    When you were in high school. you volunteered in a local hosp, and stayed with them for few years .
    When you were qualified to work, you found a part time job . There were times that you had to borrow your parent’s car because from school, you had to go to do your volunteer job,then go to you part time job . You did this for so many years .

    You had volunteered with Red cross, Amnesty international, the Habitat for humanity in India, etc.Volunteering time just even by listening to somebody who wants to verbalize on how they feel , upset,depressed, etc ,you have helped this person to feel better. Giving things or donating to people who are in need, (eg food, clothing, etc.) would give them comfort and joy, making this world a great place to live in .

    1. Thank you for taking me on a walk down memory lane and for sharing the memories! I owe it all to my MOM who has the biggest heart, a positive role model and a R.N.for 40 years (who helped so many people) and ingrained in me to be of service to others.

  5. Little luggages says: Reply

    Kudos to you and your family! Your son is learning an invaluable lesson that is to help and be kind of others. As they say, charity starts at home.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. That quote has so much truth to it.

  6. Diane Macchinisso says: Reply

    Hi, found your blog on Instagram. I like this idea to do something meaningful with the family. I have little ones and often, think they are too small to participate in volunteering. Now I found this so I will keep in mind for next year. Thanks!

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