Operation Christmas Child

operationchristmaschildlogo

Operation Christmas Child is a fantastic initiative of the Samaritan’s Purse charity and is something I’ve wanted to participate in for quite a few years! This year I actually managed to facilitate it happening.

I promoted it amongst our local homeschooling group and there was quite a bit of interest, so I contact Samartian’s Purse and they put me in touch with a truly remarkable woman, who was our local contact person. She was so incredibly sweet! She delivered boxes and pamphlets to my home, which I distributed amongst friends, and she also offered to come back and spend some time with us while we filled the boxes.

Based on the couple of stories she told me at the door when dropping off the boxes, I figured it would be quite inspirational for the kids, so we arranged a date.

In the meantime, Molly and I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for gifts to fill our boxes with! While we were at the shops one day, a lady overheard us discussing options for filling the boxes and she came up to us asking if we were talking about the Operation Christmas Child boxes. When we said yes, and that we were organising a group collection, she was so excited, having been doing a similar thing for quite a few years herself, but being currently new to our town and not yet unpacked enough to have managed to get things organised for this year. We exchanged numbers and arranged a time for her to bring her donated boxes to our house for collection.

It’s amazing the people you meet when you start doing things like this!

Only one other family was able to come along on the day when the volunteer came to talk with us, although we did manage to also collect additional donations from some other families afterwards.

It was wonderful listening to her share stories about the boxes! Two stories in particular stood out to us.

One story was about a young girl who was living on the giant rubbish dump in the Philippines. Totally destitute and with no family, she decided to walk towards the centre of the rubbish dump, planning to die there. Apparently it is not uncommon for this to happen. The dump is so large and so toxic that children can get lost there, and also simply die due to the terrible conditions of being there for a sustained amount of time.

Just before this young girl took that sad, desperate action, a delivery arrived of Operation Christmas Child boxes. She had never, ever received a gift of any kind in her life, and the thought that someone, somewhere, cared enough about her to send her gifts from afar, even though they didn’t know her, was enough to change the course of her life.

She did not walk out to the middle of the rubbish dump that day and in fact ended up becoming a doctor so that she could help children living in the slums like she had.

The other story was of a young girl from Chernobyl, who had been terribly affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. One of the impacts of the radiation was that she had no hair. When the gift boxes arrived at her town, they were distributed amongst the children and squeals of laughter and delight could be heard around the room as the children opened the packages.

One of the workers noticed that this little girl’s box contained some beautiful hair ribbons and accessories. The worker’s first thought was to try to quietly remove them and replace them with an alternative gift, thinking the hair ribbons would be very upsetting to this little girl who had no hair. Before she could do this, the girl saw the hair accessories and began to weep. Her tears were tears of joy, however, not sadness, because they symbolised hope. She had always thought her hair would never grow or be beautiful, and she saw these ribbons as a sign that one day she would have beautiful hair.

This story was shared as an example of why the staff don’t interfere with what is put in any of the boxes, and simply trust that the right box will go to the right child. Apparently there are many, many more stories like that. One box, for instance, contained only one item: a beautiful, hand-knitted beanie. It ended up being given to a boy living in Thailand; a country known for its heat and humidity. Again, the worker thought the gift would not be appropriate or appreciated, but it was! It turned out that the boy was from the highlands where it can get very cold, and he had been struggling to stay warm. Not any longer!

Filling the boxes with treasures for children around the world who have so little, proved to be as much a gift to us as it would be to them. Being part of something so wonderful was truly a blessing!

Filling the boxes was incredibly rewarding and also required a bit of spacial reasoning to get everything to fit!
Filling the boxes was incredibly rewarding and also required a bit of spacial reasoning to get everything to fit!
A great storyteller with an incredible passion for what she does, this lady spends a large part of her year sewing and creating handmade gifts for many boxes!
She was such a character, and also a great storyteller with an incredible passion for what she does. This lady spends a large part of her year sewing and creating handmade gifts for many boxes!
It was fun doing this together with friends, and we hope to make it a regular part of our life in years to come!
It was fun doing this together with friends, and we hope to make it a regular part of our life in years to come!

Greenpeace and Peace in the Home

greenpeaceandpeaceinthehome

It is incredulous to think that the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is at risk due to the impact of coal mining. Recently we heard that the Greenpeace ship, “The Rainbow Warrior” was on its way to the Great Barrier Reef so the activists can do whatever possible to help halt the madness, and that it would be docking in Sydney and conducting free tours! My youngest child is passionate about the environment and when I told her about the Rainbow Warrior coming to Sydney, she jumped at the opportunity for a day trip to see it! The Rainbow Warrior is a very special ship, having been purpose built especially for Greenpeace, factoring in the specific needs of a ship that is used for environmental activism. It is also especially significant, given the history of the original Rainbow Warrior’s tragic bombing by the French secret service.

The biggest hurdle to our planned adventure was Mr 13, who was not keen at all. Leaving him at home wasn’t an easy option on the particular day we were going, so we spent quite a lot of time discussing potential solutions. I suggested a number of other activities that he might be interested in doing while we were Sydney, but none of them appealed to him to the degree that he was willing to “endure” the Rainbow Warrior tour and a long train trip as well. Finally I suggested something he jumped at: the aquarium! It turned out to be an absolutely perfect thing to do, because we could see the Great Barrier Reef exhibit, hot on the heels of touring the Greenpeace ship that was on its way to the Great Barrier Reef!

I strongly believe in finding win-win solutions, where everybody’s feelings and needs are taken into consideration. It is well worth the effort because it honours the individual within the family, and respects different people’s preferences. It is a beautiful way to show love. It might take a while, and a fair amount of discussion, but if the intent is to honour the preferences of both parties, eventually a solution will be found that both are happy about. One of the most helpful books I’ve discovered for understanding practical ways of doing this is Winning Parent, Winning Child: Parenting So Everybody Wins.

So we headed off on our train journey, finally arriving at the beautiful Sydney Harbour.

It was such a thrill to finally see the ship!
It was such a thrill to finally see the ship!
It's message and mission were hard to miss!
It’s message and mission were hard to miss!
It was great to get a behind-the-scenes look inside the ship
It was great to get a behind-the-scenes look inside the ship
We learned so many fascinating things, like how quickly they can get their action boats into the water!
We learned so many fascinating things, like how quickly they can get their action boats into the water!
It was also really interesting to learn about the crew, how highly skilled they are, and the reasons why they have such a variety of different nationalities represented.
It was also really interesting to learn about the crew, how highly skilled they are, and the reasons why they have such a variety of different nationalities represented.
Basically, it was just so fantastic to see such an iconic ship docked right in the middle of Sydney Harbour!
Basically, it was just so fantastic to see such an iconic ship docked right in the middle of Sydney Harbour!
Then it was off to the Aquarium to see some weird and wonderful things! (My son had "endured" the day up until this point!)
Then it was off to the Aquarium to see some weird and wonderful things! (My son had “endured” the day up until this point!)
Don't look up!
Don’t look up!
Well hello there!
Well hello there!
This was the creature at the top of my son's wish list of animals he most wanted to see. Do you know what it is?
This was the creature at the top of my son’s wish list of animals he most wanted to see. Do you know what it is?
A dugong!! There were two, actually. They are the only dugongs on display in Australia and two of only six - and the only pair - on display anywhere in the world! Cool, huh? It was so awesome watching them eat!
A dugong!! There were two, actually. They are the only dugongs on display in Australia and two of only six – and the only pair – on display anywhere in the world! Cool, huh? It was so awesome watching them eat!
We got up close and personal with some very strange creatures!
We got up close and personal with some very strange creatures!
And some scary ones that were pretending to be friendly!
And some scary ones that were pretending to be friendly!
Not so friendly when looked at from a different perspective!
Not so friendly when looked at from a different perspective!
I'm not quite sure what THIS creature from the deep is called but she seems quite friendly!
I’m not quite sure what THIS creature from the deep is called but she seems quite friendly!
I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed some of the interactive displays.
I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed some of the interactive displays.
Although some of them were understandably intriguing!
Although some of them were understandably intriguing!
This was a multiple choice quiz and the answer was surprising!
This was a multiple choice quiz and the answer was surprising!
Incredible, huh?
Incredible, huh?
The sand table in the "Take Action" display was a hit. The plastic bag of rubbish left on the ground by a previous visitor shows that some people really didn't get the message!
The sand table in the “Take Action” display was a hit. The plastic bag of rubbish left on the ground by a previous visitor shows that some people really didn’t get the message!
We found it hard to believe that some people could be surrounded by such a clear message about the damage of plastic litter to our oceans and wildlife and just not get it.
We found it hard to believe that some people could be surrounded by such a clear message about the damage of plastic litter to our oceans and wildlife and just not get it.
When we'd finished our visit at the aquarium, it was time for a trip on The Monorail, a light transport elevated rail system that is soon to be taken down after many years. My kids love riding on it and will be sad to see it go, so they decided to have a final trip on it to say goodbye.
When we’d finished our visit at the aquarium, it was time for a trip on The Monorail, a light transport elevated rail system that is soon to be taken down after only being constructed in 1988. Monorail travel was quite expensive compared to trains and buses (aimed at tourists, I suppose) so perhaps they never got the business they had expected. My kids love riding on it and will be sad to see it go, so they decided to have a final trip on it to say goodbye.
We might not have seen any monkeys at The Aquarium, but it seemed there was one on  The Monorail!
We might not have seen any monkeys at The Aquarium, but it seemed there was one on The Monorail!
Two monkeys, actually.
Two monkeys, actually.

All in all we had a fantastically awesome day! And it was really great to find a way to factor in something of interest to both kids, even though one initially hadn’t wanted to go.