Every year millions of children in need around the world receive Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. With these shoeboxes come an opportunity for children and their families to hear the Gospel and to experience God’s love in a fresh way.
For many shoebox recipients, their Operation Christmas Child gift is the first present they've ever received. They had never before joyfully unwrapped a package—not on their birthday, Christmas, or any other holiday.
In Zambia, our volunteer National Leadership Team (NLT) works with children living in poverty whose families can barely meet their basic needs, much less provide toys or presents. Many children in this African nation live with relatives or friends because their parents are divorced and have moved to other villages to find work.
About five percent of Zambia’s population, or 600,000 children, are orphans. Sickness and disease, such as HIV/AIDS, have contributed to the number of orphaned children.
The day these Zambian children eagerly looked through the special treasures in their shoebox was a day filled with excitement, laughter, and joy. It was the day these children experienced—for the first time– what it’s like to have a gift all their own.
Eight-year-old Emma lives with one of her mother’s relatives. She sees her dad so little she doesn’t know what he does to earn a living.
Emma attends a community school near her village. Community schools are for students who can’t afford the nominal fee or uniform cost to attend a local government school. Most community school teachers have little training and are paid only a small stipend.
Her favorite items in her shoebox were pink hair clips and a bar of soap. Emma has never had hair clips.
Victoria sat near the front row and sang loud, clapped hard, and let her feet freely tap along to the beat during worship. Before receiving her shoebox, Victoria and children from her village worshipped and heard a Gospel presentation.
After looking through her shoebox, Victoria couldn’t pick one gift as her favorite. She piled item after item on the side of her box so the NLT could see all her gifts. Pencils, hair ribbons, dolls, and socks with bright colors and designs—Victoria was grateful for it all.
Tela and other mothers stood in the back behind rows of benches where their children sat and waited to receive their shoebox. Today was a dream come true for parents as well as children.
This mother repeated over and over the word “never.” Tela never expected her four children (left to right: Adrian, Brian, Honest, Aaron) could receive such nice gifts. Although her husband works hard as a minibus driver, his income doesn’t leave room for anything beyond necessity.
Tela couldn’t believe people would show her children such kindness and love.
Of all the gifts in his shoebox, 12-year-old Pascal (left) was most excited about a flashlight, or torch, as he called it. Pascal explained that because he has to go outside to use the toilet he really wanted a flashlight to use during the night.
This is Pascal’s first flashlight and it’s also green, his favorite color.
Mwaka and Charity are good friends who attend church in an area with many widows and orphans. Few jobs are available in their impoverished village.
Mwaka, 13, was grateful for colored pencils, a washcloth, and a toothbrush. Charity, 12, was glad to see a hat, beaded jewelry, and school supplies in her shoebox.
Simon enjoys writing and was so excited to see the notebook, pencils, and colored pencils in his shoebox. Sometimes not having these basic supplies prevents children in Zambia from going to school.
Simon is 11 years old and also attends a community school. He misses his father because he works in another town and is often away from home.
Emmanuel (right) has lived eight years with his grandmother, Judith. His parents divorced when he was four and Judith has faithfully done her best to care for him. Sometimes Judith also has responsibility for several other grandchildren (left to right: Lillian, William, Memory, Patricia).
It’s been hard, though. The rent for Judith’s home, like that of most homes in her community, continues to soar to rates that will soon be unbearable. Judith praised God for blessing her grandchildren through Operation Christmas Child.
When Anna’s father died she went to live with her aunt. Her mother works in another town to try and earn money for the family. Anna’s aunt doesn’t have a job. Most people in Anna’s village do part-time work such as making bricks.
Anna’s favorite gifts were a doll, pink flip-flops, and a toothbrush.
Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has distributed 135 million Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Each one takes an amazing journey into the hands of a child, and that journey begins with you. Learn how to pack a shoebox.