Americans often tend to take everything for granted: education, freedom, and the roof on top of their heads.
But for other children around the world, children who struggle to find three square meals a day, children who are so withheld from an education that they are perturbed by a mechanical pencil, children who do not even realize the magnitude of the opportunities they are restricted from, living in America would be synonymous with heaven.
Operation Christmas Child, a branch of the multinational nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Purse, is a group that strives to minimize the barriers that children in third world countries encounter by providing them with annual shoeboxes filled with school supplies, hygiene kits, and toys.
The organization, which was founded in 1993 by a man from Wales and then adopted by Samaritan’s Purse, has helped more than 188 million children across more than 170 countries and territories throughout the world.
People in communities are asked to stock shoe boxes with supplies, which are then secured at a designated drop-off location coordinated by an extensive network of area and regional coordinators. After processing the boxes to ensure that all of the contents are safe for travel overseas, the boxes are then shipped to third world countries where Samaritan’s Purse regional leaders oversee their distribution among underserved communities to children aged from 2 to 14.
“We want to share God’s love with these children,” said Amy Shaw, who, along with her husband, William, is a regional coordinator for the eastern Pennsylvania area. “When they get a shoe box, they think, ‘Who is this person who loves me so much to give me this?’”
Although filling shoeboxes with goodies requires such a small effort from the gift givers, the area coordinators and teams as well as the regional heads who supervise the process must execute the processes with perfection to regulate the collection and distribution.
“In America alone, there are over 4,000 drop-off locations,” said the Shaws. “Missions to make boxes go out to girl scouts, boy scouts, churches, community organizations, anywhere we can get the word out,” they say.
Teams from the USA, Great Britain, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Finland, South Korea, Switzerland, and many more work codependently to enable the success of such an intricate intercontinental exchange.
But, if the 188 million children are any indication, their efforts have come to fruition. Even in turbulent times such as this one, Operation Christmas Child has not allowed the temerity induced by the pandemic to overcome their decades of work, collecting over 9.1 million shoe boxes in 2020.