Thursday, November 01, 2007




For months now the stores have been stocking up and preparing for the great onslaught of festive shopping The huge cavalcade of planning, buying, gift wrapping, cooking and Christmas card sending is well underway, yet there are still weeks to go. Each year, this massive shopping race seems to start earlier and children’s hopes are raised as TV and in-store advertising becomes more flamboyant.

It’s easy to forget that Christmas will not be fun for everyone, particularly the lonely and needy folk around the world. But there are many groups of people in Essex who are aware of this, mindful of children who will have little chance of receiving gifts at this universally festive time.

One person who not only knows about the sad state of children overseas, but does something about it, is Maggie Beale, a Billericay-based volunteer who sets aside each year time to travel to Chelmsford to take part in "Operation Christmas Child". This project is organised by "Samaritan’s Purse", an International Relief Charity whose warehouse headquarters are in Robjohn’s Road, Chelmsford.

Maggie, who works around the year making and buying gifts for children from 2 to 14, is enthusiastic about her chosen charity. She said: "The plan is to provide gift-filled shoe boxes to some of the neediest children in the world. Since its start in 1990, more than 47 million children have received a shoebox and last year alone the UK 18 million boxes to children in 13 countries.

"As a local volunteer this is a particularly busy time at our nearest warehouse in Chelmsford where we check, sort and top-up shoe boxes to ensure that they comply with various import regulations and that the contents are suitable for the boys and girls of the various age groups. Before they are sealed, packed and transported to their final destinations. Last year we sent 67,051 boxes from our warehouse alone, to children in Kyrgyzstan, India, Ukraine, Bosnia and Serbia.

"The mainstay of our operation is the group of schools, nurseries, churches, voluntary organisations and individuals who donate filled shoe boxes for collection between 4th and 20th November to allow sufficient time for transporting around the world in this Annual Project.

"Although the busy period is upon us, I get great pleasure throughout the year making, buying and collecting things that will ultimately put a smile on a child’s face. I am proud to work with the team of volunteers to help ensure the gift of happiness to children who otherwise would receive nothing. For more information on this year’s appeal see the website at and perhaps be inspired to help or contribute next year."