As children begin to put their annual Christmas wish list together, a number of area children are making a different kind of list – not for themselves, but for needy children halfway around the globe.
Young people like 17-year-old Erika Perry are joining “Operation Christmas Child,” a project of the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, to collect and deliver some eight million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 100 countries.
Erika and her siblings, Abigail (age 5), Matthew (age 6), Phillip (age 8), Christian (age 10), and Laurel (age 12) are all taking part in the effort. When the Perry children received a letter eight years ago from a shoebox gift recipient in Zimbabwe, it fueled their desire to make a difference in the lives of other children.
“I want other kids to have something to be excited about. Many children have very little and don’t ever receive presents,” Erika, a senior at Pearland High School, said.
Operation Christmas Child begins with a shoebox filled with toys, school supplies, candy and often hand-written notes from donors. The gifts are then delivered to underprivileged children living in areas impacted by natural disasters, disease, war, terrorism, poverty and famine.
“I never thought a small box with just a few things could mean so much to a child,” Erika said. “There are so many needy kids and just one shoebox gift can make a huge difference. I always wonder if there is a child out there who won’t get a box because there just aren’t enough.”
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered shoebox gifts to more than 61 million children in 130 countries. It is a year-round project, requiring months of organization and preparation to reach millions of children annually. To reach recipients, staff and volunteers have used modes of transportation that include ships, trucks, buses, trains, airplanes, helicopters, boats, and even dog sleds and camels.
In Texas, Operation Christmas Card is working to collect 290,000 gift boxes.
In Houston, the goal is 36,000 shoebox gifts. Organizers point out that 36,000 shoeboxes stacked on top of each other would rise more than 13 times higher than the JP Morgan Chase Tower.
For information on drop-off locations and how to pack a shoebox gift, visit www.samaritanspurse.org or call 518-357-2284.