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Operation Christmas Child falls short of expectations

December 11, 2008

As Christmas soon approaches, many children can barely contain their excitement as thoughts of shiny new presents flood their minds. Unfortunately, many children living in poverty-stricken areas all around the world never get to feel the joy a gift can bring.

  The Journey House hosted the sixth annual Operation Christmas Child shoebox wrapping party at UW-River Falls to bring a little excitement to these impoverished children on Christmas morning.

  The purpose of the event is to get students involved in wrapping shoeboxes filled with basic toiletries, toys and school supplies that have been donated by students and members of the community. The boxes are then sent out as Christmas gifts to children ages two to 14 all over the world.

  Cultural Awareness Through Talking and Sharing (CATTS) organizes the event each year. CATTS held its first Operation Christmas Child event at UWRF in 2003. The group decided to get involved in Operation Christmas Child because of previous Co-President Micaela Rodriguez, who had participated in the program at her high school, said CATTS advisor Linda Alvarez.

  CATTS was also inspired to work with Operation Christmas Child when they discovered that one of its members was touched by the program. The member, former UWRF student Zer Vang, received a shoebox gift during his stay in a refugee resettlement camp in Thailand.

  “He said that it was a remarkable experience, because for one thing, he had never received a gift before,” Alvarez said. “[Zer] found it absolutely incredible that someone on the other side of the planet would be interested in what was happening to him.”

  Sophomore Alice Hibbler said she volunteers to wrap shoeboxes because she knows that her time is going to a good cause.

  “I don’t mind wrapping shoeboxes,” she said. “Christmas is always exciting and it’s important for all children to have gifts and experience that excitement.”

  Junior Haruka Kanaguchi said she was inspired to participate because of other people’s participation.

  “My host mother Linda Alvarez did it last year,” she said. “I thought that it would be a good thing to help others.”

  Senior Megan Wisbar has been wrapping shoeboxes for three years. The program has been a big success in past years and she said she expected it to be especially successful this year

  “My first year at UWRF we packed about 400,” she said. “My second year we packed more than 500 and this year was supposed to break all the records.”
  Unfortunately, this year’s expectations did not break any records as Wisbar had hoped.

  “Due to time constraints, economic hardships and organizational difficulties, we only were able to send about 70 boxes out,” she said.

  Wisbar said that every little bit counts and, even though this year was not as successful as those in the past, she is glad for those 70 boxes.

  “It means that 70 more children in this world will get a Christmas present,” she said.

  Student efforts at UWRF are just a small part of the much larger story of Operation Christmas Child, which is part of the group Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world, according to their Web site.

  Since 1993 Operation Christmas Child has yielded more than 61 million shoeboxes that have been packed, shipped and delivered to children around the world, according to the Web site.