WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - More than 41,000 shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child were loaded up Monday night and shipped out of the Triad to some of the poorest children around the world.
The shoe boxes, filled with toys, hygiene items, candy and lots of love, were packed and loaded onto tractor-trailers at Pinedale Christian Church.
“It was the only Christmas gift we would ever get on Christmas," said Dania Yadago who received several shoe boxes while growing up in the Middle East.
Yadago and her family fled the Middle East for the United States as refugees five years ago after being persecuted for their Christian faith.
Monday night, Yadago joined other volunteers in helping package the boxes for thousands of other children in similar situations around the world.
“That shoe box really became a sign of hope to me," said Alex Nsengimana, who remembers the shoe box gift he received in 1995, while he was at an orphanage in Rwanda. "At a point that I lost everything, a point that I lost everybody that I cared about, that shoe box really gave me something to hold on to.”
Nsengimana was born to an HIV positive mother, though he never contracted the virus, he would lose the little family he had left during the Rwanda genocide of the 90s. His grandmother and uncle were slaughtered in front him as his life was spared by what he calls a miracle.
"The man who was going to take my life -- his gun wouldn’t work.” The Operation Christmas Child shoe box came to him and the 250 other orphans he was living with in 1995, proving to him that hope was real and people really do care.
Nsengimana was later adopted by an American family. Now, he works for Operation Christmas Child and hopes to help other children that need a little faith.
“I pieced it all together a realized God was with me from the day I was born," he said. "I couldn't ignore that anymore.”
The trailers left for Charlotte Monday night. There they will be sorted and prepared for flights and delivery.