Many of you will have seen that a couple of weeks ago I travelled with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) to deliver shoe box gifts to needy children in Belarus. In my recent post I promised to come back and update the BritMums (and Dads) and here I am….
My trip to Belarus turned out to be so much more than I expected, it was brilliant and I would recommend that anyone who gets the opportunity to travel with OCC does so. This campaign is really accessible and an excellent way to be able to talk to our children about how fortunate they are, in my opinion children are shielded too much in our country and that is why we have some very selfish adults. My children and I have been making shoebox gifts for about ten years now and each year I find myself doing just one more box. I can’t resist knowing that we have put an extra smile on a child’s face at Christmas time.
Yes I understand that some people object to Operation Christmas Child being a Christian charity but surely Christ is what Christmas is about? I can honestly say that I observed no teachings any more intense than our own children would be exposed to here in the UK in a secular school teaching the nativity. There is no brain washing, conditions or forcing children to read the bible. Free-will is a fundamental part of the Christian faith and my experience is that Samaritans Purse (the charity that runs OCC) are supporting that.
I have posted quite a number of times about Operation Christmas Child on my blog and also specifically about my trip to Belarus, so if you want to read more, then do head over and have a nosey. I also published a post exposing the truth of what I found in regard to the way OCC operate their shoebox distributions, it was really enlightening to speak to a well-established photographer who happens to be an atheist and has worked as a freelancer for Samaritans Purse at least 60 times. He was able to confirm for me that in all his trips abroad with both UK and USA based staff (and even Graham Franklin himself) that he has never heard nor observed anything that has made him question working with OCC.
During my six days in Belarus I heard so many stories from children who are now in need. Many of the problems seem to have come about through alcohol misuse and that is heart-breaking as it seems so unnecessary but when you hear more of the country’s history and troubles you start to understand how a lack of education about alcohol has led to a legacy of uncared for children. The kind of stories I heard time and time again are like those of four year old Daniel who is currently in a social shelter whilst his mum tries to break her addiction and become sober. To help the government have ‘coded’ her, which means she has an implant in her stomach and the implanted drug will make her extremely sick if she has alcohol. This of course seems very alien to us but it is common practise in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet countries. We just have to pray it helps Daniel’s mother to make the necessary changes and gain a job so she can look after her son and love him as a mother should.
Probably one of the children whose smile will stay with me forever is Arian, for years he travelled with his mother and father across Afghanistan where his father is from. When they finally settled in a small town a war broke out and Arian witnessed things that no small child should have to see. A charity helped them to leave Afghanistan and travel to Belarus where the mother was born and the family thought their life would change. Sadly Arian’s mother followed in the path of her own father and developed serious mental health problems and is now sectioned and in an institution. This led to Arian coming to the social shelter, the director described him as a soft boy who loves to help everyone and in the two visits we made to the shelter he was always near the front smiling at us and wishing to interact. It is amazing that Arian has this beautiful temperament when he regularly used to witness shootings and death in Afghanistan.
Arian was in the hospital before he came to the shelter and the staff there had told the director that whilst he was a kind child he would entail a lot of work for the shelter as he did not speak Russian, was at least three years behind with his school work and constantly wet the bed. Not to be deterred the director took him in to her shelter and found within the first week that the bed wetting completely stopped. He knew he was in a supportive home and it just warms my heart to hear how settled he became in a short time.
Whilst I was at the shelter the director asked Arian what his dreams were and he said number one was to see his Mama well again and number two was to own a computer. The director laughed and told him it was not possible to fit a computer in a shoebox and he smiled and said he did not mind as the first dream was the important one. Isn’t that just perfect?
If you made a box this year thank you and if you would still like to be involved then visit shoebox world and make one online, these will be delivered to children in Swaziland in the new year.
Arian’s photo by kind permission of Jonty Wilde please visit his site for some touching and excellent photography