The Star Article:
Local organisers of the Operation Christmas Child project are gearing up to gather and send hundreds of shoebox gift packs to children across the Pacific. Last year, 1800 boxes of gifts were sent from Otago and Southland, and Dunedin based co-ordinator Kirsteen McLay-Knopp is hoping for an even better response this year. Operation Christmas Child Otago and Southland representative Gaye Lester said the focus for Operation Christmas Child in New Zealand and Australia this year would be children in Samoa. Up to 35,000 boxes will be donated from New Zealand and Australia for distribution. ‘‘We know that there are many children in Samoa who have very little, and who will be thrilled to receive a shoebox packed with gifts this Christmas,’’ Mrs McLay-Knopp said.
Newly crowned Miss Samoa Latafale Auva’a, who is studying law and music at the University of Otago, will leave the city soon to take up her role in Samoa for the next year. Miss Auva’a has packed many boxes for Operation Christmas Child in the past and is hoping to see the distribution of the gifts in Samoa.
Dunedin people are being invited to pack their own shoebox gift pack, including items such as toys, light clothing, stationery, toiletries, and the like. War toys, religious and political material are discouraged. The shoeboxes can be pre-printed ones provided by the charity, or just an ordinary shoe box decorated by the givers.
‘‘The aim is to provide the children with things that they will need, as well as giving them something to play with,’’ Mrs McLay-Knopp said. ‘‘It is a way of showing that child that they are loved, and that is very important in all children’s lives.’’
Dunedin resident Tongsiew Ooi›Lim, who grew up with very little in Malaysia and received a similar box of gifts as a child, said the contents were ‘‘amazing treasures’’ that had a lasting impact. ‘‘To me it meant someone had unconditional love for me, that each child counted and was special,’’ Mrs Lim said.
For the first time, the University of Otago has an Operation Christmas Child co-ordinator in dentistry student Amy Chen, who has already distributed 100 boxes among staff and students. ‘‘The response has been fantastic so far,’’ Miss Chen said.
Globally, more than 100 million shoeboxes have been given to children in more than 130 countries since 1990. The worldwide Operation Christmas Child project operates under the umbrella of the Christian Samaritan’s Purse organisation. The gift packs from Otago and Southland are being collected and stored at Mrs McLay-Knopp’s home until October 25, when they will be shipped via Auckland to Samoa. Shoebox gift packages can be dropped at the Mana Christian book store, or the Salvation Army.