The Voice of The Salvation Army in Canada and BermudaView RSS Feed
Jan30ThuA Salvation Army churchgoer is humbled by Costa Rican children and their gratitude for simple gifts. January 30, 2014 by Melissa Yue Wallace
A shoebox full of toiletries and dollar-store items may not top your gift list, but for children in developing countries, each item is a miniature treasure.
- Filed Under:
- Faith & Friends
“They have such appreciation for a bar of soap,” says Roxanne Weinheber, a bakery-store owner from Charlottetown, N.L. “I'd have to give my children a Lamborghini to get the same reaction.”
Last May, Roxanne and 22 other Canadians travelled to Costa Rica with Samaritan's Purse, an international aid organization, to deliver more than a thousand shoeboxes for their Operation Christmas Child project. Since 1990, the organization has collected and distributed more than 100 million shoeboxes worldwide to children in need, aged two to 14.
School supplies, toys, toothbrushes and personal letters are some of the items packed inside the boxes. Roxanne's Salvation Army church in Charlottetown is one of many participating congregations in Canada that fill shoeboxes in what has become an annual tradition.
After years of seeing hundreds of boxes stuffed and shipped out,
Roxanne decided to visit the recipients in person to see where they would end up. She was profoundly affected by what she saw in the Central American country.
“Some people were living in metal or tin structures,” she says. “They call it home, but I wouldn't even call it a shed. We went to this little church with a concrete floor and two benches on the side of the plain green walls.
“I looked around and thought, Why do we need so much just to be happy? It was very humbling.”
While visiting a school and delivering approximately 600 shoeboxes to children in different age groups, the team watched as children sat down with their boxes, participated in a prayer of thanksgiving, did a “drum roll” on top of their boxes and then proceeded to open their gifts at the same time.
“One boy opened his box, closed it up and started to cry,” recalls Roxanne. “We thought, 'Oh no, he has a girl's box' or 'We gave him a box that is not for his age group!' ”
They didn't speak his language so he went to the teacher. She consoled him and then came over and told the group what happened.
“He was an orphan and this was the first thing he had ever gotten in his life that was his,” Roxanne says. “When he opened the box and saw what we had brought, he was so overwhelmed that he shut the box. He couldn't deal with it.”
The team also visited a private orphanage where they met a woman who was caring for 40 children. In her 20 years of service, she had nurtured more than a hundred kids who had grown up and moved on. Some even came back to help cook food and tend to the others.
“When the children at this orphanage opened their boxes, they were all crying, 'Mama! Mama! Come see what I have!' ” reports Roxanne.
“The kids love balls and some of the boys had little harmonicas—they thought they had everything.”
Roxanne is now the representative for Samaritan's Purse in her area and she plans to join a Salvation Army mission trip where she can take part in something physically more involving, such as constructing a house or doing renovation work.
“Anything I can do, I will.”
(Photos: Courtesy of Roxanne Weinheber)