A TINY toddler in Belarus carries a box of presents packed with love from South Yorkshire...
And this year you, too, could bring a smile to the face of youngsters in some of the poorest countries overseas - by taking part in annual charity campaign Operation Christmas Child which launches this Saturday.
This year marks the 21st anniversary of the project - and in Sheffield the scheme is being coordinated by campaign stalwarts Freda and Brian Harpham of Chancet View Road, Meadowhead.
Freda, aged 76, first got involved almost 20 years ago, when her granddaughter, now a student at The University of Manchester, was in nursery.
Retired classroom assistant Freda said: “She brought a leaflet home about filling shoeboxes. They were always wanting knitted hats, and I love knitting, so I thought why not?
“Now we go out to Belarus every year - the children who get a shoebox are absolutely thrilled.
“It might not be a lot, but when you’ve got nothing it means the world.”
Jane Simmonds, regional manager for Operation Christmas Child, said: “This year is the 21st year of Operation Christmas Child and the level of support from across South Yorkshire is vital to the continued success of the project.
“We know we can count on people’s big-heartedness, even in difficult economic times.
“Last year we received gift-filled shoeboxes from Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster, and over 38,700 were distributed to vulnerable children in Belarus, Crimea, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan and Liberia.”
Operation Christmas Child is one of the largest annual children’s charity projects, and distributed over a million shoeboxes to needy children last Christmas.
This year, people are being asked to consider including small sporting items in their shoeboxes, in honour of the London Olympics next year.
Jane said: “Many children are inspired by sport even when life is hard.
“As well as supporters putting in welcome Christmas gifts and educational items, we hope they may include something like a tennis ball, a skipping rope, a baseball hat, a small football, an inflatable beach ball, a stop watch, sweat bands or other sports related gifts.”
The boxes go to children living in refugee camps, street shelters, hospitals and children’s homes.
The charity project began in 1990, helping children in Romanian orphanages in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ceausescu regime, but has since expanded to other underprivileged countries.
Jane said: “While the Romanian situation has improved there are, very sadly, all too many youngsters facing really hard lives including many in the countries to which we deliver shoeboxes.
“The shoeboxes donated in South Yorkshire are delivered direct to the hands of a needy child, making a real difference to them, and we are getting ready for another busy campaign.”
Log on to www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or call 0870 011 2002 for details of how to get involved.