HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
Terry and Stephanie Whey of Happy Valley-Goose Bay are back home from an unforgettable trip to El Salvador where they gave poverty-stricken children shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items and school supplies.
The couple was volunteering with a not-for-profit organization called Samaritan’s Purse.
The organization has been reaching out to children through its annual Operation Children Child program for the past 25 years. Since that time Samaritan’s Purse has delivered boxes to over 135 million children in the developing world.
The first distribution of shoeboxes took Terry and Stephanie and the other volunteers up a steep path through the woods. It was a horrendous 15-minute trek in extreme heat, Stephanie says.
“You land in a modernized city but after that, when we went to do our distributions, you go into the country. We walked, basically straight up, to a landing where a little church had been built in the woods. And this is where these people go every Sunday,” she says.
Because the children dress the same for school and church, she says, the poverty is often masked.
Giving out the shoeboxes was an emotional experience, she adds.
“For some of these kids, this was the first gift they’d ever received. It was a tremendous feeling giving them their gift.”
The El Salvador trip was the Whey’s third mission as Samaritan’s Purse volunteers.
In 2016 they travelled to Haiti; 2017 saw them head to Africa.
Although there is poverty within the communities they have visited, Stephanie say the children appear friendly and content.
Her husband agrees.
“The kids are very happy to receive these shoeboxes with very essential items like pencils, crayons and paper. They are things they need to go to school but what they don’t have,” Terry says.
After the boxes are distributed, the local churches offer Bible studies to the children.
It’s not something the children have to participate in, Terry says, rather it’s a program that is offered to them.
Terry says while they embark each the mission as a couple (paying approximately $3,500 each for their trip) they look for support throughout the community to fill shoeboxes.
Once the boxes are filled, they are sent to other areas in the country, he says, where they packed into sea containers and shipped to various countries.
According to its website (www.samaritanspurse.ca), Samaritan’s Purse provides help to victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine, and persecution.
Shoeboxes are given to children regardless of gender, race or religion.
More shoeboxes are needed, Terry adds, especially for the younger children in El Salvador.
“They were short on some boxes for the two-to-four-year olds. So they would have gotten a box (packed for) the five-to-nine-year olds,” he explains.
Terry and Stephanie encourage people in the community to pick up and fill a shoebox.
Shoeboxes are available through some churches, Terry says, and from his business - Terry’s Tents and Shoe Repairs, 326 Hamilton River Road. They can also be returned to his store once they are filled.
“We have cartons set up at the front of the store and people can bring in their (filled) shoeboxes and put them right in the carton.”
The deadline to drop off Christmas shoeboxes is Nov. 4.