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How A Shoebox Started My Humanitarian Career

Most of my parents’ friends were working in foreign countries while I was growing up. When they’d make their occasional visits back to the USA, they would come over and have dinner with us. After dinner, the coffee would be made, the photos would come out, and the stories from far off lands would flow. I’d sit there wide-eyed as they described the adventures of making a foreign place home, learning the culture and loving the people.I remember seeing the photos of families living a very different life than I was. It was in those moments that I was exposed to the reality that there were so many kids my age living in harsh conditions, without any hope of things ever changing.

The brokenness of the world was laid before my eyes. But I was looking at it, and they were living it.

What could someone my age do about the plight of children in nations all over the world? An answer came when I started to see posters of something called Operation Christmas Child (OCC). OCC is a program run by humanitarian relief group called Samaritan’s Purse. To participate in Operation Christmas Child, you can pick an age category for either a boy or a girl and fill a shoebox with gifts. You could put a letter and a photo to your specific child if you wanted to, and after that, you just added your fee of $7.00 to cover shipping. It would then be sent to children in need all across the globe for Christmas.

Operation Christmas Child became one of the most exciting things about the holidays for me. It was a thrill to pick basic things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, school supplies, and adding the fun stuff like candy, toys, and books. As I followed my Mom through the store, I’d pick something up and imagine the certain girl I was shopping for holding that item. Long before I ever stepped onto third world country soil, I had gone there, in the aisles of a supermarket, through the visions of the shoebox and the child that would hold it.

For years I participated in Operation Christmas Child, even taking a few trips to the processing center in Charlotte, North Carolina, where thousands of boxes were being inspected and made ready for shipment.

In the Western world, we consider Christmas as a time to get the ‘goodies’ or ‘treats’; the extra stuff we won’r allow ourselves the indulgence of during the rest of the year. As I opened each shoe box, I saw that some of them were packed with socks, pencils, and other basic things that we might not be thrilled to find under our tree. But the longer I worked with OCC, the more stories I began to hear of kids that received a box with shoes that were just their size, or a child who had prayed for socks, and received a box with several pairs.

Now, Operation Christmas Child is in their 20th year.  They’ve given gifts to millions of children, and I know that OCC was one of the reasons that my dreams grew to help people worldwide, as I  saw the practical ways I could meet needs. Now, my full time career consists of doing work in that same realm.

This is national collection week for the shoeboxes. Now, through November 25th, you can find a  drop-off location nearest to you and if you pay online, you can print out a barcode for your individual box and track it as it goes to your child!

All shoeboxes collected from Hawaii will be going to children in Nepal. Come visit us at Surfers Coffee Bar this week, drop your shoebox off and grab a great coffee at the same time!

Receiving hours for Surfers Coffee Bar:

Thursday- Saturday 7 AM- 7 PM

Sunday and Monday 7 AM- 12 PM