I have been involved with Operation Christmas Child in some way since my boys were young and first started at nursery school. The school they went to collected boxes and we began to get involved. As they got older and I learnt more about the programme I got more involved.
Eventually I got involved in the first shoebox checking warehouse here in our town.
Where we filled a container lorry with boxes to be sent to Kyrgyzstan.
But that year, after much fundraising and some wonderful help from my church I was able to travel to distribute shoeboxes in Belarus where I met lots of wonderful people. We visited churches, schools, boarding schools, children homes, the edge of the Chernobyl dead zone and an old village babushka lady, living all by herself in a house with only cold running running water, an outside toilet, wood fires for which she had to chop all her own wood and in an area that has snow on the ground for at last 3 months of the year.
Unfortunately, at the time of that trip I was dealing with undiagnosed sleep apnoea so I didn't get to absorb as much of the atmosphere as I would have liked and I really do want to go back one day. Having said that, there are some specific memories that stand out and I will finish with one of those today.
We were in a school, distributing boxes to children at the end of their school day. One boy opened his box to find 3 bars of chocolate sitting right in the top of his box. Now if you know anything about packing a shoebox you will know that while sweets (candy) are encouraged, chocolate is not, but here they were, 3 bars of chocolate. He held one out to me and I assumed he wanted me to open it for him. There were no translators in the room and neither of us shared a language, but as I began to unwrap it to offer it back to him he stopped me and made it quite clear that he wanted me to have that bar of chocolate. I seem to remember it taking me well over 6 months to even consider opening that bar of chocolate let alone eating it and when I did I savoured every taste like no other bar of chocolate I have ever eaten.
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