columbia polo shirts ‘Boxes of love’ help children
When Paola Justiniano was just a small child in Bolivia, she had difficult questions for her grandfather questions about why life was so difficult for children like her and so easy for children in other parts of the world.
But how to you begin to answer these questions in a way that a child will understand?
For five years around Christmas, however, brightly wrapped boxes arrived in Justiniano small town, bringing smiles, hope and joy to each of the children that received them.
They were shoeboxes from Operation Christmas Child, a holiday tradition that began in 1993. Since then, the campaign, organized by Samaritan Purse, a Christian charitable organization, has collected and distributed over 94 million shoebox gifts worldwide, each filled with everything from hygiene items and school supplies to toys and candy. They are given to children regardless of gender, race, religion or age. Last year in Canada, nearly 700,000 shoeboxes were collected and distributed.
It been 15 years since Justiniano received one of those red and green boxes, but the memory of opening them is as strong as ever.
In Kingston for three months for an exchange program, Justiniano had an experience that can only be described as fate. She met one of the women who assembles boxes for Operation Christmas Child each year, Gail Shillington.
Still learning how to speak English, Justiniano recalled her experience through Rachael Blackmore, translator and fellow exchange student from British Columbia.
thought of God, and that God had done something for me, said Justiniano with tears in her eyes. never dreamed that when I received those boxes that one day, I would be in Canada and I would find them here. who has delivered shoeboxes to Mexico, Nicaragua and Romania for Operation Christmas Child, said meeting Justiniano was a highlight of her career.
Paola was totally, I mean, I cried, said Shillington, still in disbelief that she got to meet one of the children who received the boxes she so lovingly helped to assemble. can believe how much she has blessed me. She hugged me and told me to never stop doing it, and made me realize that every effort was worth it. She is a real story on the other end, and I love that about it. It was a wild moment meeting her, a God moment, that I got to meet her. her mission trips to the Third World countries she visited,
Shillington said she hardly ever saw clothing on the children, let alone saw them with real toys.
only toy I ever saw was a bicycle wheel with a stick, said Shillington. Haiti, when I went on another mission trip, they had an empty carton of milk, and caps from the milk cartons that they used as a car. Often I saw the children with no clothes, no underwear and no shoes. I find that they need everything. the toys, colouring books, hygiene products and candy were fun for Justiniano to unwrap, the gifts had a much deeper meaning for her.
that mattered was knowing that someone somewhere else was thinking about me, said Justiniano. wasn a normal thing, we weren used to that. Waiting for that as a kid was the most exciting thing. Just opening it, that would make me so happy, and I would look forward to it every year. regular volunteer locally, provincially and abroad, Shillington just saw a need, and decided to help fill the gap, even just a little.
have so much in Canada, we are so blessed, and we find that, I guess, to be quite something. We do so little with so much, and they do so much with so little. They build their houses out of what they find: sticks, cardboard boxes, etc. They have grass roofs, and we have no idea of how the other half of the world lives. And so I just want to do my part to give back. There is the golden rule of unto others as you would have them do unto to you. And I just really want to give something back to people who are less fortunate. says Operation Christmas Child is love in a box.
brings love and hope and it lets [children] know they are not forgotten people. We do what we can to help them. It hard to see them in poverty. soft teddy bears and boxes of colourful crayons were among Justiniano favourite things to discover.
But above all else, opening the boxes made her feel like Bolivia and Africa are places that I think would be forgotten by big countries, said Justiniano. think they would be forgotten by big countries like Canada and the United States or something, but to know that people are thinking about us means a lot, it feels important. [It was like] somebody in Canada is thinking of me? enough, the children get to know just who is thinking of them. Each person who packs a box is encouraged to include a letter and a photograph of themselves.
In fact, the suitcase Justiniano brought to Canada holds the well worn photograph and address of a little boy from Mississauga who sent her a shoebox all those years ago. While in Canada, Justiniano hopes to track him down.
It would be the perfect ending to a story that has lasted all these years, said Shillington,
who is planning on helping Justiniano find the boy.