The Kids I Think of When I Pack Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child Part Two

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Last week I told you about the children in Malawi. This week I’m remembering the children in Crimea–then it was Ukraine, today it is Russia. The children in this orphanage were far better off than children in many orphanages, but it had not always been that way for them. A complete change of staff brought caring adults, a clean building and programs that gave the children hope. Operation Christmas Child, or perhaps a similar program (I’ve never confirmed which) gave shoe boxes to at least some of the children in this orphanage.

Local missionaries helped get them good quality used clothing. American adoptive parents formed a group to love on these children in tangible ways. These “ways” included brand new school uniforms, a new washing machine and water heater,  new backpacks, plentiful school supplies, clean, new mattresses and bedding and extra food. The group also sent annual Blessing Bags with brand new clothing, toys, toiletries, warm hats and mittens–some items from the USA and others bought locally to help the economy and to be culturally appropriate. That all changed when Russia took over Crimea.

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Crimea

I was one of those adoptive parents who tried to help with blessing these kids. My heart goes out to them now–all those hopeful things are gone from that orphanage today. If you look closely at the back left of the picture you see a little boy wearing what I called disco shorts! Silky, bright orange! Little girls sometimes had to wear boys’ boxer shorts. The sandals they had for summer were nearly as old as I was, but due to infrequent use they’d lasted. I think of these things. I think of the cold showers the children used to take and the toilets that didn’t work well.

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All over the former Soviet Union there are orphanages like this. Soviet culture did not stigmatize giving children up for adoption. Children’s Homes (aka today’s orphanages) were created to liberate mothers–Moms could drop their children off for the week, go to work and then pick them up on Friday. Today it is economics and alcoholism that puts children in orphanages. While, Crimea has a climate like Indiana’s, other regions of the former USSR are very cold. Warm clothing is needed out doors–but often indoors as well. It’s hard to keep warm on a diet of thin soup and kasha (wheat porridge).

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Children in many parts of the old USSR need truly warm clothes–not Dollar Store see-thru mittens and socks, but the kind you’d want your own children to wear. They need warm slippers to wear at home–were heat is not always available–often thru no fault or neglect of the parents. They need books to look at and toys to play with thru long, bitterly cold winters. They need school supplies to learn and art supplies to enjoy. These are a priority for caring parents, but many don’t earn much money. Photo source.

In Crimea children also need summer clothes, too, as it gets very hot in the summer. Do you want to play outside on an 85 degree day in a full track suit? A hoodie? Cool shorts and sunsuits, sundresses and sandals. In any communal setting everyone needs flip-flops in shower rooms to avoid fungus. Sun hats are an obsession–children in Crimea wear a hat in the summer! Not just babies.

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Source

I think of these children most. They look like American children–they wear the same brands (real or fake), they live in normal-looking apartment buildings. They go to schools that are like ours. They watch tv or dvds. But their parents, even those doing their very best, often barely make enough to afford life–just like many parents here, but the the safety net isn’t working  over there. Hospitals may not have electricity part or all of the day. Food may be in short supply in an area. There are no standards for pollution. No safety measures for children, poor if any services for disabled children–most of whom are dumped in orphanages. A family of four often lives in a one bedroom apartment–sleeping on pullout couches is normal. A washing machine is a luxury. For children in rural areas the poverty is often on par with the poorest areas of Africa.

Children in the care of a grandmother or even great-grandmother may truly be starving. Pensions, if paid, amount to a few dollars per month–and buy less than nothing. In rural areas wells may be contaminated by agricultural chemicals. Stores are poorly stocked. Charities provide some food, but not enough. Heartbreakingly, some grandmas give up their grandchildren in the hope that they’ll be adopted and cared for in more comfort than can be provided within the family.

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Packing a shoe box for these kids brings HOPE first and foremost. Hope is crucial to happiness, to success, to a decent life.  How would you feel if you couldn’t afford warm clothing for your child, but had to send her out to school on foot or by public transportation, with no gloves or in a summer shirt and outgrown coat? Now how would you feel if your prayers were answered and your child got a shoe box with a warm sweater, warm slippers, new socks (not footies), a warm hat  and thick mittens? Blessed. You’d feel blessed. Your child would feel warm, loved, cared for. You’d have hope. Photo Source.

There’s still time to pack a shoe box. Operation Christmas Child has great ideas here on what to pack. In previous posts I’ve mentioned things to pack. It doesn’t take long to do the shopping, you won’t miss the money–it’s the same as a few days worth of Starbucks. It’s a project your family can do together. You can pay for shipping and receive a card saying where your box went. You are welcome to put in a picture of your family and your address if you’d  like–many people receive thank you letters. Give hope. Pack a shoe box.

If you pack a shoe box, come back here on November 12–21st and post your photos. I’m holding a Virtual Packing Party that starts that day. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to email me photos and I will add them to the post with appropriate acknowledgement. You can also TWEET or Instagram #ipackedashoebox. All of this helps spread the word. The word is HOPE. We’re showing the world God’s Provision.

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