Saturday 30th November – cold day! But off we went, Joey, Helen, Jane and I to see the warehouse that Operation Christmas Child runs throughout November and into December, sorting, taping and packing the shoeboxes that we put together every year. We went on a mini adventure. The sat nav came out and directed us to the warehouse. We were greeted by several friendly faces and asked to sign in.
Once introduced to Rob the warehouse manager, we were shown a video of the shoeboxes being received in several different countries. The video showed modes of transporting the gifts – road, camels, donkeys and by hand. The faces of the children receiving the boxes were incredible to see. We then began our tour around the warehouse. It is not a remarkable or warm place. Everyone was dressed for warmth! But what goes on is truly astonishing!
First stop was the ‘shoe box hospital’, to chat to the women who nurse damaged shoe boxes back to health, they also unwrap shoe boxes that have been sealed and transfer the contents to new boxes. If you have an empty box and you can’t fill it, please send it to the warehouse, wrapped in nice Christmas paper, because they do use a lot of empty shoe boxes! As we spoke to the women we found out that they often take unwrapped shoe boxes home in the evening to cover them, so that they can be sent out. They are dedicated to their work and it seems that they don’t have a dull moment; they are just tired from working full days!
We moved around the edge of the warehouse to look at items that had been purchased and are used to fill up shoe boxes that have had items removed or are only half full. You would have to see the pictures to believe the amount of things that have been donated. All of it is categorised and as the volunteer checks the box’s contents things are added from the pills of things that have been given. Once they are full, the box is handed forward and wrapped in Samaritans Purse tape. We were told that the tape and the bigger marked cardboard boxes are a way to let Customs know that everything in the box is safe for travelling. That sort of level of co-operation from a government body is mind blowing for me. I know that Operation Christmas Child is not a small operation, but to think of the years of work that have gone into making sure Customs know what they are dealing with is amazing!
The bigger cardboard boxes in the middle of the warehouse are placed on pallets which are labelled with the age groups that Samaritans Purse set out. These boxes also have a handy envelope on them, and as a shoe box is placed in a larger box, the bit of paper that you put with your box, if you paid for it online, goes in that envelope. That envelope is sent to HQ, scanned and you’re sent an email to tell you where your shoe box is.
When the pallets are full they are moved to the far side of the warehouse and the wait begins for the lorries to come and take them away. We continued to wander around and ask questions and were told some amazing stories of how children had prayed for their boxes. Villages and schools get a few days notice that the shoe boxes are coming and we were told of one girl who asked for a Barbie doll, and when she opened her box, there was a Barbie doll inside!
I really enjoyed the time we spent at the warehouse and I am so thankful to all the volunteers who work hard on the second part of the process to get the shoe boxes to the children who need it the most! The volunteers are retired and those that work often take a day out of their holiday to help out.