At the next meeting, we’ll be putting together our Operation Christmas Child boxes. MOPS International is proud to partner with Operation Christmas Child, and every year MOPS moms assemble hundreds of boxes.
In our own Ridge MOPS group, Brittany Hyde has been a part of this ministry on the front lines. In 2008, she traveled to Africa and saw the impact of the boxes first-hand. I asked her to share some of her experience with us.
Describe your trip.
Brittany: I was on a month long mission trip in Rwanda. One of the things I did was deliver hundreds of the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes to a large school in the city. The children put on a performance for us that was filled with singing and dancing and prayer. Afterwards we brought out the boxes and handed them out according to the gender and age.
What was a memorable moment?
Brittany: Seeing the excitement on the children’s faces. When the boxes started coming out they were jumping up and down and yelling with such joy. They could not have been more grateful to receive a gift.
What are your personal tips for those putting boxes together?
Brittany: Most of the kids did not know what the majority of the items were in the boxes. Since these are put together during the Christmas season many people fill the boxes with items with Santa Claus on them. These kids are living in extreme poverty and do not know who Santa is and it is not easy trying to explain who he is when they ask. They also do not know how to play with certain toys that to us are simple, such as silly putty. So the more basic the item and toy the better for them. Something they would automatically know what to do with, such as a toothbrush, stuffed toy, or a ball. Any type of high tech item or obscure toy is not recommended as the kids get confused and move on to the next thing. Also these boxes are going to sub-tropical climates in the spring or summer time, usually in Africa, so winter clothes (gloves, scarves) are not necessary as it never gets cold enough for the kids to use them.
Some good recommendations include: Socks, t-shirts, sunglasses, hats, hygiene items, school supplies (including manual pencil sharpeners), jump rope, balls, toy trucks or dolls.
Anything else to add?
Brittany: Think simple. Remember these are kids that have never seen a cartoon, been to Disneyland or a shopping mall. They do not know what most toy items are and they have never had a Christmas like we do in the U.S. So they do not understand our traditions. While the Santa item may be cute to you, the child receiving it may disregard it because they have no idea what to do with it. I’ve even seen some younger kids be scared of images of a big “white” Santa. I had to show a little girl how to use chap stick, that’s how removed these kids are from what we know.
I would not pack anything that requires batteries since there are restrictions with shipping batteries now and once the batteries die in the toy, they do not have access to more. Also candy isn’t great because tooth decay is a problem and sugar adds to that as well as it lowers their immune systems. Also no toy guns or knives, glass items, liquids or vitamin supplements. It’s also nice when people include a personal note and picture. The kids like seeing photos of the person that packed their box, but its not necessary.
How neat to get a first-hand account of the Operation Christmas Child impact! Keep these tips in mind as you’re shopping for our boxes, and contact your table leader if you have any questions.