Participation in Operation Christmas Child has reached a new high in the Quinte region.
Written by Emily Mountney-Lessard
Operation Christmas Child has reached a new high in the Quinte region.
The long-running program is operated by Samaritan’s Purse and provides children impacted by war, poverty and natural disasters with gifts each year.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of shoe boxes filled with gifts are shipped across the world to places like Bolivia, Paraguay, Haiti and Senegal, and this year, the Ukraine.
Sylvain Champagne, the area co-ordinator for the program, said he is overwhelmed with the amount of support shown this year.
He has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for about six years. Locally, the program brings in about 4,500 boxes annually.
As of Tuesday evening, Champagne said 5,730 boxes had been collected and more were trickling in.
“The generosity of people in this area is amazing,” said Champagne. “It just exploded this year.”
He said Quinte Mall opened it’s doors to the group and gave volunteers space to set up a display. School, youth and church groups also got involved this year. Groups from local hospitals also sent in donations for the first time.
“Organizations are understanding what this is all about and they want to get involved.”
He compared the growth of the program locally to a flower that has just blossomed and will continue to grow.
Suggested items for the boxes are school supplies, hygiene items like facecloths, toothbrushes, combs and soap. Gift items like stuffed animals, small musical instruments, hair accessories, socks and candy are also welcomed. A $7 donation is also sent to cover processing, transport, administrative costs.
“In some places, you could be the smartest girl, but if you don’t have school supplies you don’t go to school because the schools don’t have any supplies,” he said.
Donations can also be made through the organization’s website.
When culturally appropriate, children that receive gift-filled shoe boxes are offered a booklet in their own language called The Greatest Gift of All, which explains Jesus Christ.
Champagne believes the guidance of God is evident in the journey of the boxes.
Champagne recalled hearing of a child receiving a box filled with a dozen pairs of socks. A volunteer passing out boxes offered to switch the child’s box but the child refused. It turned out that the boy had a foot disease and needed clean socks every single day.
“Things like that don’t just happen on their own, he (God) had a role in that,” he said.
After receiving a box, one young child told a volunteer that his brother was sick and couldn’t get a box because he needed to stay at home. Champagne says the child went home to open the box and there was two of every item inside.
“For these families these are the only things they own,” he said. “I just want to say a huge thank-you to everyone who has donated.