Seventeen-year-old Angel Crimmins didn’t know her first trip outside of the country would have such a lasting effect on her life.
Crimmins, a Kalaheo High School senior, and 19 other youths from across the country were chosen to travel to La Paz, Bolivia, for a week this summer as part of the Samaritan’s Purse annual Operation Christmas Child project. They distributed more than 600 shoe boxes filled with gifts for children there.
Her mother was part of the project’s area team for Hawaii, which spurred the teenager’s involvement in the international community service project. Although she has been involved in collecting items for the shoe boxes for as far back as she can remember, this was the first year she got to travel to see the recipients.
"It was really life-changing," she said. "There were so many kids in poor living conditions, it taught me to be thankful for what you have."
The contents in a shoe box varies by age group and gender, but they generally include toys, school supplies, hygiene items, candies, and a personal note from the giver. The shoe boxes are collected from each state and shipped to a Third World country for distribution. Shoe box destination countries vary from year to year.
Operation Christmas Child is a project under Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization. The project has been around since 1993 and has hand delivered more than 77 million shoe box gifts around the world. The national collection week for the shoe boxes for this year is Nov. 15 to 22.
Crimmins went to the towns of Isla de Patapatani, Panpachiliya, Puerto Perez, Tacanoca and Cachilaya to give out shoe boxes from July 17 to 25. In addition, she and the rest of the team helped with church construction and immunizing llama and alpacas in a livestock program.
"It was a big culture shock," said Crimmins, who was the only representative among the group from Hawaii . "There was a language barrier, but you could still interact. We didn’t need a language."
"In their culture, they don’t believe in giving gifts, so they were staring at it for a while," she recalled. "They didn’t open it, so we had to kind of get them excited for it."
Crimmins is part of her school’s National Honor Society, and is eyeing a college on the mainland but doesn’t know what she wants to major in yet.
"I definitely want to do something that helps other people," she said.
To learn more about the Operation Christmas Child project, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.