Tanara Oliveira/News Staff
National Collection Week, which concluded on Nov. 21, marked a remarkable milestone for Operation Christmas Child as it celebrated its 30th anniversary with an impressive tally of 3,233 gift-filled shoeboxes collected in Greater Victoria.
“We’re so thankful to all the individuals, families, community groups, and churches who shared their love gifts for children around the world,” said Charlene de Haan, a local volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.
Beyond the shoeboxes filled with gifts, local partners have gone above and beyond by handcrafting thoughtful presents like backpacks, soap bags, bracelets, and more.
The Community Connections group at the William Head Correctional Facility in Metchosin, a key partner for over five years, showcased their woodworking skills by creating 250 racing cars, 105 whale crayon holders and 57 sets of blocks. This year, for the first time, a packing party was hosted with the men from the facility, providing them with the opportunity to witness how their crafts contribute to the greater gift-box assembly.
Each shoebox represents a heartfelt gesture of love from the packer to a child who often receives a shoebox as their very first gift in life.
The number of gift boxes from Victoria alone increased to 415,072 last year, part of a larger total of 10.5 million packed worldwide. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has made a profound impact by collecting and distributing more than 200 million shoebox gifts to children in over 100 countries.
Canada’s 2023 season commemorates its 30th year as part of the international effort, with Canadian gifts set to be shipped to Central America, West Africa, the Philippines, and Ukraine. These gifts, crucial for children aged 2-14 living in poverty, famine, and even war zones, include essential items such as school supplies, hygiene products, and toys, often accompanied by a personal note and a photo.
“Struggling children and families need hope,” said Kendra Shields, director of Operation Christmas Child. “This is the essence of Operation Christmas Child. Every shoebox gift is an opportunity for a child to learn that he or she matters to Canadians and, most importantly matters to God.”