Locals can help make this Christmas a special and memorable one for needy children in other countries by filling a shoe box with gifts.

Operation Christmas Child is under way and last year schools, churches and individuals in Rotorua filled more than 700 boxes.

These were sent to needy children in the South Pacific - mainly Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

New Zealand collected more than 30,000 boxes.


Boxes today contain something to wear, something educational, something for hygiene, something to play with and something special.

Operation Christmas Child Rotorua co-ordinator Jan Bellingham says she seems to be giving out a lot of boxes already this year and always hopes to have more filled each year.

She says Fiji receive a lot of boxes, as their aim is for every child to receive a box at some point in their lives.

Jan says the boxes are not just a gift for the children, but it also breaks the barriers for Samaritan's Purse to help with the likes of schools and clean water, as people are often suspicious to start off.

"When their children get gifts they really appreciate that."

Items often included in boxes include school supplies, beanies, soft toys, toothbrushes and balls.

Jan says a lot of children can't go to school unless they have pens and books.

She says she has been in Fiji while children were opening their boxes before.

"They don't know where to start, they're so excited."

She says it feels fantastic to receive all the boxes full of goodies from the community and load them to be sent away.

Rotorua's Amy Edwards says her family will be filling four shoe boxes this year.

She has four children and this will be their first year doing Operation Christmas Child as a family, though the children have been involved in filling other people's boxes before.

She says it is a great thing for them to get involved in.

"It's good for the kids to learn that Christmas is not all about receiving and it's important to give too."

Emma Edwards, 7, says she is looking forward to filling up the boxes and likes filling them for other children because she enjoys giving lots of things away.

"Some people might not have anything, and it's good to give away things you don't need."

Operation Christmas Child began in 1993 -the height of the war in Bosnia - when there were thousands of refugees, many suffering women and children.

Boxes can be collected from Talk Tech Now (next to the Hospice shop) or phone Jan on (07) 357 5726.

They are collected in October and sent to Auckland for checking before going overseas.