By Sarah Hendrix | Staff Writer

International relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse, provides the opportunity for people to pack Christmas shoe boxes every year with “Operation Christmas Child” around the holidays for children in need. The shoe boxes travel the globe and reach the hands of impoverished children around the world that otherwise would not receive gifts during the holidays. I have had the opportunity to pack shoe boxes in Canada and the United States, and deliver them to children in the Philippines after the country was hit by a typhoon.

In December 2013, I went with a non-profit organization called Youth With A Mission to the Philippines for two weeks. Nearly one month before I arrived, the Philippines had been hit with typhoon Haiyan (also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda), which had destroyed many islands and killed more than 6,000 people. Our organization went to the Philippines to help deliver medical supplies and clean up the damage that had been done in Tacloban, one of the worst hit islands in the country.

During one of our days in Tacloban, Samaritan’s Purse provided us with the opportunity to help deliver “Operation Christmas Child” shoe boxes to the children that had survived typhoon Haiyan. We filled a school room with around 100 children and sat them in groups according to their gender and age to distribute the boxes. Each shoe box had a label indicating whether the child receiving it would be a boy or girl with the age options: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. As we handed out the boxes, children began squealing with delight as they opened their presents. The boxes were filled with dolls, toy cars, soap, tooth brushes, balloons, T-shirts and much more.

Packing “Operation Christmas Child” shoe boxes was a Christmas tradition in my home growing up. Every year my mother would get multiple boxes and take my sister and I to Walmart, so we could pick out toys and candy to put inside. My sister would always choose to fill her box with gifts for a boy and I would always choose to fill mine with gifts for a girl. We loved getting to choose toys that we knew would eventually be played with by a child somewhere else around the world.

My mother made a point of teaching us from a young age that Christmas is a great time of year to give to those who were not as fortunate as us. Every year I looked forward to packing the boxes and I continued the tradition when I was away from home. I packed shoe boxes for nearly 10 years before I had the opportunity to help deliver them in the Philippines.

My husband Connor and I packing “Operation Christmas Child” boxes this past November. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Hendrix)

To this day, it was one of the most joyful experiences I have had during the holidays. Being given the opportunity to give Christmas presents to children who had lost their homes or families was unforgettable. Before that experience I had no idea where the shoe boxes I had packed ended up, but after seeing children in the Philippines open their gifts I was convinced that it was a tradition I would carry on in my own family.

Samaritan’s Purse provides shoe boxes or allows people to use their own, and collects them at drop-off locations during the third week of November every year. A packing list is provided with a list of great suggestions for toys and basic necessities to fill up the shoe boxes. Samaritan’s Purse asks for a $9 donation to pay for the shipping costs of the boxes that are packed.

For those who are still interested in participating in “Operation Christmas Child” there is an online option still available to pack a shoe box. All of the information regarding “Operation Christmas Child” can be found on the Samaritan’s Purse website