KIND-HEARTED Northumberland residents could make a happier Christmas for needy children as the annual shoebox appeal returns.
Operation Christmas Child, which is organised by Christian relief and development organisation Samaritan’s Purse, provides gifts for children living in extreme poverty overseas.
It is the 21st year the charity has organised the appeal and supporters are once more urged to get involved by packing a shoebox full of gifts for youngsters.
Last year, the UK sent more than a million boxes and in Northumberland 9,700 were dispatched to vulnerable children in Crimea and Swaziland.
Northumberland Operations Supervisor Jack O’Kane said: “It is the 21st year of Operation Christmas Child and the level of support across the county is vital to the continued success of the project and we know we can count on people’s big heartedness, even in difficult economic times.
“It is wonderful to think we are a small part of such a large global project that is doing so much good for millions of children.”
This year’s collection will have an Olympic theme and as well as toys, Christmas gifts and educational presents, people are asked to think about including some sporting items in their shoeboxes, such as a tennis ball, skipping rope, baseball hat, inflatable balls, a stop watch or sweatbands. The box could also be decorated with sports stickers or drawings.
Mr O’Kane said: “Our main aim has remained constant over the 21 years that Operation Christmas Child has been running — to bring some happiness and hope at Christmas to tens of thousands of youngsters, many of whom live in very difficult conditions, including displaced persons camps, street shelters or in hospital, or who have been abandoned by or removed from abusive parents and placed in children’s homes.
“They have very little to call their own and it is quite wonderful to see what a shoebox with some toys and other small presents can do to brighten up these children’s lives at a time of year when we are celebrating Christmas.
“As a Christian charity our motivation to help these children is particularly strong at Christmas time and we are so grateful for the kindness of so many people in donating shoeboxes for these unfortunate youngsters.”
He added: “The shoeboxes donated by individuals, schools, churches, organisations and businesses are delivered direct to the hands of a needy child, making a real difference to them, and we are getting ready for another busy campaign in Northumberland.”
When the charity began in 1990 it was to help children living in appalling conditions in Romanian orphanages, but its work now extends to Belarus, Bosnia, Haiti, Kenya, Kosova, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Romania, Serbia, Swaziland, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.
Instructions and guidelines of what to put in a box, how to pack it and where to send it are available online at www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or through a helpline on 0870 011 2002.
Further details of public drop-off points for shoeboxes, which open in November, are still to be announced.