70,000 gift-filled Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes packed by Canadians went go to children in Haiti in 2011. (photo courtesy Samaritan's Purse International Relief).

70,000 gift-filled Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes packed by Canadians went go to children in Haiti in 2011. (photo courtesy Samaritan’s Purse International Relief).

Emilia Piskorski
CCE Social Media Coordinator

Shoeboxes are for shoes, right? They’re supposed to protect your shoes before they find your feet. They’re shipped overseas and stored in back rooms until you try them. Eventually those boxes end up in your recycling bin or used as storage space in your closet for years.

But they’re not always used for shoes. For some children, shoeboxes are the highlight of their year. For me, shoeboxes will never just be how a way to bring home my new Nike’s – but a place where hope is sparked.

A couple weeks ago, I took a trip with a group of people to Operation Christmas Child (located at Northfield and Weber) an initiative sparked by Samaritan’s Purse. They’re a nondenominational Christian organization that provides support for people around the world, especially children who are less fortunate. Operation Christmas Child asks people to fill shoeboxes with things that to us might be ordinary, but to some kids, are absolutely wonderful.

You’re encouraged to used the organization’s boxes but from what I’ve seen, people use their own boxes as well, as long as they specify what gender and age group the box is for. The purpose of my visit to the organization was to make sure that the boxes were properly and appropriately filled.

Operation Christmas child is located in a huge warehouse. As soon as you enter, you’re welcomed by signs with greetings written on them. After sign-in and a brief training session, you are then divided into groups and led by an “experienced group-leader” to a station deeper within the warehouse. The stations require six people.

At each station, the box undergoes a check for money (which cannot be sent in the box but can be donated to the charity), then undergoes a check for appropriate articles. Things that cannot be sent are war-related toys, food, weapons, and used clothing.

My favourite part about the entire experience was opening the boxes and seeing what was in them. Many families wrote letters and included photos of themselves for the children (I may have cried once or twice). I couldn’t help but imagine each family and each child who would receive one of these special gifts. No two boxes were the same and each handled separately with consideration and care. I probably checked over 200 hundred boxes over the two hours I spent there, and I’d say about only two of them had to be slightly modified.

At the end of the evening, they played a video on a huge projector showing some of the past Christmases where children opened the boxes around the world. Their excitement was indescribable. The organizers explained that volunteering for Samaritan’s purse was something we could do all year long, and included opportunities that allowed you to travel overseas. I left the place with an imagination running wild about how the children would feel opening their own box. Each box that I carefully checked would be loved and remembered by a child. To me, the experience was something that took an ordinary two hours out of my day, but to this day I know that the experience for the 2-4 year old boy or the 12-14 year old girl would mean so much more.

Throughout my life I’ve been apart of several volunteering missions, but none as organized and unique as this one that helps children miles away. If you’re interested in being apart of the experience that I was, click here to learn some more about how you can do it.

How do you help out in KW during the year? Let me know what you love to do for others in the comments..