Gift-Filled Shoeboxes Bring Hope, Joy to More Than 270,000 Tsunami Survivors

Samaritan’s Purse Distributes Gifts as Part of Massive Relief Effort

More than a quarter of a million children in communities devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami are being helped and encouraged as they receive special shoebox gifts sent halfway around the world by Samaritan's Purse. 

"In a time when we had absolutely nothing, God provided these gifts and made my children happy," said Paul Gajendran in Pondicherry, India. His daughter, who had been barefoot for months since the tsunami, was delighted to find a pair of sandals among the gifts in the box she received.

Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham organized Operation Christmas Child's special Easter collection after visiting the disaster zones and meeting children and families traumatized by the tsunami, which struck the day after Christmas and killed more than 250,000 people. Local officials requested the gift boxes to help children recover.

"It breaks our hearts to see how much and how long these children have suffered," said Graham, who recently returned to South Asia to help distribute shoebox gifts. "As Samaritan's Purse works to meet the needs of their families and communities, we especially want to encourage the children and show them that God loves them and cares for them."

More than 270,000 shoeboxes filled with toys, clothing, school supplies, treats and other gifts for children in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India were packed by individuals, families and churches across the United States. The boxes were sent to the Samaritan's Purse headquarters in Boone where more than 3,000 volunteers helped to sort and ship them.

The gifts will complement the ongoing tsunami relief efforts by Samaritan's Purse, which has committed more than $30 million to provide housing, water, food, medical airlifts and other assistance, touching the lives of more than 100,000 survivors.

An annual project of Samaritan's Purse, Operation Christmas Child has become the world's largest international gift program of its kind for children. Last year, Operation Christmas Child delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to 7.4 million children in more than 90 countries.

"On behalf of the children, we want to thank everyone who packed a box, volunteered in the processing center and prayed for the project," Graham said. "The response was truly heart-warming, and we praise God for it."

Operation Christmas Child is now preparing for its annual gift collections, which are scheduled for Nov. 14 – 21, 2005, at hundreds of locations across the United States. For information about participating in Operation Christmas Child, call 800.353.5949.