Operation Christmas Child
By Pauline Stewart
I was travelling inside Myanmar about seven years ago, to visit a small mountain village that our group had supported in the past with community development. We wanted to see how things were going and reconnect with village leaders we had met previously. Just inside the border of nearby Thailand was reasonable safe at that time. We arrived at a remarkable moment. Some (shoe) boxes organised by Operation Christmas Child (OCC) had just arrived. The boxes looked identical to the ones our own township had filled and sent earlier that year. However, these boxes had come from a community in England. The boxes are identical across the developed world, but the contents are always different. We watched as each child was given a box, chosen to suit the age of the child. That’s one of the powerful aspects of Operation Christmas child, the family or individual who chooses gifts and personal items and packs the box, has a certain aged child in mind, and whether it is for a boy or a girl. That is then marked on the box. A lot of items of all kinds can fit in a shoe box.
Silence descended for a few moments, and the children were gazing at the bright colours, feeling the weight. Some just cradled their box, and one after the other, they started to open the boxes. It was a classroom setting, about fifty children of different ages in a no-walls classroom. No one tore at their box to pry it open quickly. Some moved a small distance to be more by themselves for the moment of opening their box. I will never forget the wonder and joy, even bewilderment of the children as they unpacked their boxes of useful treasures, toiletries, pens, toothbrush, small toys, a t shirt, a pair of jandals. Some items obviously unknown to them.
That’s the end point of Operation Christmas Child. It’s such a great cause and manageable on an individual or family basis.
The starting point is the distribution of empty boxes to churches, schools, and community groups so that every household can fill a box or more than one.
Suggestions come with the box, and there is a place to tick designating the age and sex of the child for whom the box has been filled.
Robyn Balfour has organised the Operation Christmas Child for a number of years in Mercury Bay where she distributes the boxes on request, and then each group or class, or household brings them to a central point. This happens all over New Zealand and many other developed countries to be shared with so many places in the world where children have little of the basics. Last Thursday, 3 November, all the boxes were collected from St. Peter’s Anglian church, the collection point for Mercury Bay. The boxes just about filled Robyn’s vehicle. These Operation Christmas Child boxes will be freighted to a destination in need and delivered around the Christmas period.
This year’s project is completed, but Robyn hopes that many more will be a part of 2023 Operation Christmas Child.
Write to Robyn if you want to fill a box for Operation Christmas Child next year.
Thank you from Robyn Balfour to
Heather and Doreen from Whangamata
Monkey House Theatre
Kuaotunu Craft group
Tairua Elim Church
Kuaotunu BB/ICONZ unit
St. Peter’s the Fisherman Anglican Church and
the wider community for packing lots of Operation Christmas Child boxes of boxes