Handing out shoeboxes to children in developing countries is like "Christmas x 200!"

"I started out in Portage la Prairie as a rep for my church, you know someone who plans the shoebox drives," says Clarise Klassen, the coordinator of volunteers for the St. Vital Centre shoebox drive. 

Joining the OCC team has shown Klassen the multi-level impact they have on each child. 

"When I think about the impact that a shoebox has, we think oh we're putting a toy in or school supplies. But it turns out those school supplies can make a big impact in a child's life because maybe they can't go to school unless they have school supplies."

While the material goods are indeed a blessing to the children, it goes beyond that according to Klassen.

"The biggest difference a shoebox makes is that every shoebox comes with an opportunity to show love to a child. To show Jesus' love to a child. There are very few ministries out there, it's one in eight or one in 10 where children are actually led to Christ."

Handing Out Boxes in Costa Rica

Clarise Klassen on a trip with OCC to Costa Rica. Clarise Klassen on a trip with OCC to Costa Rica. (Supplied)

Over a decade ago, Klassen joined a team to distribute some OCC shoeboxes in Costa Rica. 

"One of the things we learned while doing shoebox distribution is that having 200 children open a shoebox at the same time is like Christmas x 200. It's so loud, but it's so exciting and the energy is amazing."

Klassen shares that seeing the big reveal at this moment is electric. It makes way for the best part, which is after. 

"Once the Christmas morning is over, what happens next? They call it 'beyond the box'. What we got to see is how the local committee in Costa Rica used the shoebox as a way to see what other needs there were in the community. Then they're able to apply for funding through Samaritan's Purse, to help make those communities better."

The area Klassen was in faced an earthquake and landslides two months prior. 

"Before the distribution, they realized that people needed milk, beans and rice, they needed diapers and all sorts of things. So they were able to apply for disaster relief, so we were actually distributing relief supplies to families at the same time that we were doing shoeboxes."

Additional aspects that Samaritan's Purse covers are medical supplies and clinics, digging wells and providing wheelchairs for children who can't walk. 

"The shoeboxes are sort of a gateway into so much more, for making communities better out there," she says.

Little girl receiving a shoebox.Little girl receiving a shoebox in Costa Rica. (Supplied)

Packing a Shoebox

There are a few options when people pack OCC shoeboxes. They can pick the age, as well as whether they want to pack it for a boy or a girl. 

"If you can, think about packing for the older kids. There are always so many shoeboxes for the younger ones, but if you can think of the 11-14-year-olds. Maybe putting into a soccer ball or tools for an older boy. A sewing kit or art supplies for an older girl would be something to consider."

Slipping in something personal is a great way to show God's love, according to Klassen.

"One aspect that is really important is to pack a note and a picture of yourself, or if you're packing for your grandkids, a picture of them. Just they know that somebody cared enough to send me this box. Pray over your box. Put a lot of prayer into it."

CHVN will be at the St.Vital Mall collecting packed shoeboxes for OCC from November 18 - 20.