Susan Nelson made the trip of a lifetime in July of 2017 to deliver Christmas Shoe Boxes to children in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. She saw first-hand the excitement of children receiving their shoe boxes.
Since that trip, she’s more excited than ever about the Operation Christmas Child project. Throughout the Virden area, people are picking up shoe boxes to fill with special little gifts that wouldn’t be appreciated here the way they are treasured by the children who receive them.
A year and a half ago, Nelson flew to Toronto where she met the team, all people from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario, to begin the next leg of the journey.
A flight to Brussels connected them to another one bound for Senegal, the western-most tip of Africa. There, in the capital of Dakar the team of 23 handed out shoe boxes to children.
Nelson describes their destination. “It’s the Sahara dessert but it’s right on the ocean. It was very hot. When you slept, you woke up in a puddle,” she said. Netting surrounded the sleepers to keep off the tiny mosquitos that carry malaria.
One of the unforgettable sights on her 10-day trip was the island where long ago, captives were held to be loaded on slave ships headed to America. Goree Island is a short ferry ride from Dakar; picturesque, yet a monument to the horror of slavery.
Nelson saw the rooms, preserved to tell the story. “It was amazing, the horribleness. They had men, women and children, separating families.”
On this trip she saw much more, including the changed lives that result from Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child. Although it was taxing physically and emotionally, Nelson hopes to go again.
She was in Dakar in early July, but the date doesn’t matter to the largely Moslem children who receive the gifts. She explains that shopping to fill shoe boxes can be a meaningful part of people’s Christmas giving.
The Dollar Store, Red Apple and Virden Drugs provide shoe boxes. Once filled, the boxes can be dropped off at Red Apple and Virden Drugs.
Nelson will be collecting the gift boxes in Virden from Nov. 12-19. Boxes can also be dropped off at Virden Alliance Church between Tuesday and Friday at specific times.
For instruction on how to pack a shoe box, go to: www.samaritanspurse.ca
Select a quality “wow” toy (doll, soccer ball with pump, or stuffed animal). Add other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. Nelson says sun glasses were popular items as well as pencils, but be sure to include a pencil sharpener.
To cover the shipping cost add a $10 check in the box, or donate online.