Samaritans deliver gifts

By Liz Mellino

While Christmas has come and gone, it seems festive cheer is still being spread around the world.

Shepparton’s Ingrid Mauger recently returned from a trip to Fiji to deliver Christmas boxes to children in developing nations.

Run as part of Samaritan’s Purse International Relief Australia, Operation Christmas Child partners with local churches to reach out to poor children by providing gift-filled shoeboxes and share messages of Jesus Christ.

Operation Christmas Child area co-ordinator Ingrid Mauger said each of the boxes included something for hygiene, school, to play with, to wear, to love and something special.

‘‘At least one of each of these things are in each of the boxes and then you stuff it as full as you can get it,’’ she said.

‘‘The boxes are a great way for people to find an avenue for their creative outlets and to be able to do something lovely for someone that has nothing.’’

About 1000 boxes are usually packed and delivered from the Greater Shepparton area, with Ms Mauger believing she has packed about 800 boxes on her own over the past 15 years.

The cut-off month for packing the boxes is October, after which they are collected and delivered to children in developing countries sometime during the following 12 months.

Ms Mauger said while the boxes were usually not delivered at Christmas time, the children still benefited from the joy and festivity that came with receiving something special.

‘‘The children don’t mind because a lot of them don’t actually celebrate Christmas because they are Muslim or Hindu,’’ she said.

‘‘The boxes are delivered to churches in the community who then invite children to receive the boxes... they use the churches as the outreach but it is not just for children who are Christian, it is for all.

‘‘And that is part of Samaritan’s Purse mantra, it is open to everyone, regardless of race, colour or creed — and I love that.’’

A dessert night will be held this Friday to show people how to collect and pack the Christmas boxes. Everyone is welcome to attend to learn about the organisation and how they can be involved. The night is free, and will be held from 6.30pm at The Canteen at Mooroopna Anglican Church, 17 Young St, Mooroopna.