Narelle here. Today I’m delighted to welcome Marie Barendrecht to our blog. Marie lives in Canberra, Australia and for many years she has been a passionate supporter and volunteer for Operation Christmas Child.
Narelle: What inspires you to make Operation Christmas Child boxes for Samaritans Purse?
Marie: The boxes are sent to third world and developing countries where the people are so poor they cannot afford to buy gifts for their children. The box is usually the first and only gift the child ever receives. It also helps the local pastors to return to these kids to teach them about God’s love and help with other needs like clean water, health and schooling.
Narelle: What do you put in the boxes? Do you make items or purchase them?
Marie: Items like clothes can be made, and teddy bears can be knitted (see Samaritans Purse website for patterns). All other items are purchased.
1. Stationary – 2 exercise books, lead pencils, color pencils, pens, eraser, pencil sharpener.
2. Hygiene items – soap, face washer, toothbrush, comb, brush.
3. Clothes – dresses for girls (nothing skimpy!), short and t-shirt for boys, maybe some underwear, cap, beanie, thongs (flip flop shoes).
4. Toys – skipping rope, yo-yo, tennis ball, dolls, balloons, recorder, cars, farm animals etc, marbles (Big W has a great selection for $1), Happy Meal toys are good too.
5. A nice soft toy.
6. Any other special items like a wind up torch, nail set, handbag.
Please look on the Samaritans Purse website/brochure for items that cannot be included. No second hand items are allowed.
Narelle: What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing a box this year but isn’t sure where to start?
Marie: Check the website and get as much info as possible, find an A4 shoebox, cover it with nice paper and start shopping. Remember to include $9 for handling.
Narelle: A few years ago you were part of a team who delivered Operation Christmas Child boxes to children in Papua New Guinea. How did the children respond to the boxes?
Marie: The children had no idea why we gave them a shoebox until they opened it. They were so excited and once they realized it was all for them they unpacked it and started playing. Usually the cap or beanie and t-shirt and shoes went on first, the soft toy was tucked under the arm and then they explored all the different toys. The parents were very excited about the school supplies and some of them even cried because they were so happy their children had received the gifts.
Narelle: What’s your most treasured memory from your trip to Papua New Guinea?
Marie: One day we delivered boxes in a settlement called 6 Mile. These people are the poorest and live in the absolute worst conditions. A couple of boys with very dirty feet were sitting on a bench, and only one of them was wearing thongs (flip flop shoes). After we handed the boxes out, that whole row of boys received thongs EXCEPT the one who already had some! How awesome is that, only our God can do that!
We also visited a village on impulse and they allowed us in (they hadn’t done so previously). This village now has a children’s church program, and they are talking about starting a church.
Narelle: Why do you think it’s important to support Christian organisations like Samaritans Purse?
Marie: Samaritans Purse is a nonprofit Christian organisation and 90% of the people who work for them are full time volunteers. In every receiving country they work with local church partners. The local church partners are the ones who do all the groundwork. It’s locals helping locals. They know the cultures, speak the language and are trusted by the people. The boxes are a tool for them to follow up with Christian education and other projects as mentioned above. It is very successful, and 7 out of 10 kids who receive the boxes become Christians!
Narelle: How can we find out more about Operation Christmas Child?
Marie: You can download brochures and order the DVD and other materials from the Samaritans Purse website.
Australia: State Manager Toll free number 1800 684 300
Ask your state manager about volunteering at the end of the year when the boxes get processed (checked) before being shipped overseas.
New Zealand: Toll free number 0800 684 300
Marie, thanks for visiting with us today. In April 2010 I interviewed Marie on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog after her trip to Papua New Guinea. The link for the interview is below.