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Operation: generosity

By Operation Christmas Child | 31 October 2012 | Comments (2)

Operation Christmas Child

Reflections from two Operation Christmas Child Volunteers on shoebox distributions in Serbia

by Claire Beament and Shirley Powell


I will never forget the first little boy I opened a shoebox with in Serbia.  The expression on his face when he looked inside was amazing, I cannot fully describe it - it made my eyes prick with tears because his whole face lit up so much and he had the biggest smile on his face. I can honestly say that I had never seen a child look so happy before. One of the 10 year old boys told us (through an interpreter) that he was so grateful to whoever made the box and that this was his first gift ever. 

Our second distribution was at refugee homes. The buildings were originally set up as temporary accommodation in 1999, yet people were still living there. We went into one building that looked like university halls; one long corridor with ten doors. Each door led to a room.  We spoke to one lady who lived in a room with her 7 children, and she told us that this was the seventh place she had lived in since leaving Kosovo.  She started to get very upset, but when asked what impact the shoeboxes had on her and her family her whole face lit up and she said it made her children so happy, as she would not be able to give them gifts like this.

Next we went to a massive Roma community who lived under a flyover. This is the distribution that springs to mind when anyone asks me about my trip.  It was unbelievable. It looked like a shanty town – it was like a giant rubbish dump (as most of the residents make money by recycling other peoples rubbish) with shacks for houses, and no running water. It was the underworld of the city of Belgrade; you could see the flyover with expensive cars literally above you whilst standing the middle of this deprived settlement. 

There was a baby girl – too young to get a box – held by her dad who just kept crying and crying.  I went over to her with a cuddly toy sheep I had in my pocket and as soon as she saw the sheep she stopped crying instantly. That really upset me because something so simple to us meant so much to them.

This experience has shown me that something small can make a big difference. The shoeboxes are only a simple, small gift to us, and they give not only a child - but a whole family - a message of hope.



Operation Christmas Child


It was good to be able to share a bit of the love that goes into making a box with some of those kids. What an incentive to do more boxes in the future. I feel truly blessed to have been part of such an amazing team, and to have experienced this incredible journey. These shoeboxes make a real difference, but they’re not the end of the story: they open doors for Samaritan’s Purse partners to help these people in other ways, enabling them to improve many aspects of their lives.


The generosity challenge:


Be inspired by Claire and Shirley’s experience and get involved this year! You’ve got 17 days left to create a shoebox of your own. Take a look here to see how to make one, and where your nearest drop-off point is.

You can also follow Operation Christmas Child on Twitter: @OCC_UK

Join the community and swap Christmas box tips on Facebook:


 The Mission of Operation Christmas Child is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world and, together with the local Church worldwide, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Now in it’s 22nd year, Operation Christmas Child sends over 1 million gift-filled shoeboxes each Christmas from the UK. This year worldwide, the charity hopes to send its 100th millionth shoebox to a child in need.





November 1, 2012 1:38 PM
I helped to give out shoeboxes in Bosnia in 2002 and Claire's account sounds so similar! The expressions on the children's faces were absolutely unforgettable. Please do a shoebox, it is worth it - if you're too busy to shop for the stuff yourself, OCC lets you create one online and someone else physically makes it up for you - easy!

michelle twin mum

November 3, 2012 10:38 PM
I have loved reading this, thanks. I am travelling to Belarus in about 4 weeks with OCC.

Mich x

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