By Elizabeth Sias
At the count of three, dozens of children’s eyes light up as they rip open shoe boxes filled with crayons, markers, balls, light-up toys and more in a small church in Sudan.
For many, this was the first gift they’ve ever received.
And it was all possible because of Operation Christmas Child—a massive year-round project of international Christian relief and evangelism organization Samaritan’s Purse—where participants fill shoe boxes with school supplies, toys, necessity items and letters of encouragement for kids overseas.
Last year, the Cambridge community collected over 5,000 boxes for Operation Christmas Child, part of the total 8.2 million boxes that were delivered to children in 130 countries.
With back-to-school season in full swing, now is a great time to take advantage of sales and stock up on items for shoe boxes. National collection week this year is Nov. 14-21.
“Most of the time, they’re going to kids who have probably never received a gift before,” local volunteer for Operation Christmas Child Warren Walburg said. “And it tells these kids that there’s actually someone in this world who cares about them.”
Items to include in shoe boxes include school supplies such as pens, pencils, crayons and markers; toys including small cars, balls, dolls and stuffed animals; hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste and combs; other items like hard candy, mints, gum, T-shirts and socks; and a personal note of encouragement.
Sometimes, a child will write back if the note includes the name and address of the donor.
For more information on Operation Christmas Child and to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC.