Monday, September 17, 2012

A Gift to Warm the Heart

One thing I have discovered from sponsoring children around the world, is that they are the most grateful children I have ever met... they are absolutely thrilled with receiving a post card, a photo, a letter, a small toy, a coloring page, some pencils, and they treasure these gifts.  Kids in our culture for the most part just cannot relate to this level of gratitude.  I recently was reading on another sponsor's blog the story of her sponsored child who dearly wanted a ball.  Just a ball.  My heart breaks for these children who long for such simple items that are ordinary and inexpensive here. I was so moved by the experience Amanda shared when she visited her sponsored children in Honduras this summer, and gave them each a doll...  the heart warming response of her oldest girl, 13 year old Ingris, just blew me away... totally.  Tears still spring to my eyes reading her story over again...  Amanda wrote, "I have never seen such profound gratitude from anyone before! ...When Ingris pulled the doll from her bag, she immediately clutched it to her chest, closed her eyes, and began stroking its hair. For a good 30 seconds she would shake her head, pull back to look at the doll, hug her, and stroke her hair again, all the while thanking me over and over again. I'm almost positive she has never owned a doll before."

For these kids who have so little, any Christmas gift you send would be a treasured item for them.  Right now is the time to consider what you would like to send to your child, get anything ordered online that needs to be ordered, make any little craft projects, and shop for special items.  Christmas preparations come extra early for sponsors, as we need to plan ahead to get little gifts bought and in the mail 2-3 months before Christmas. Here are some ideas that may help you in planning your gift.

How about starting a tradition of sending your child a vintage nativity creche or an advent calendar each year... or both!?  Sponsored children of all ages would enjoy either of these.  Last year, much to my delight,  I discovered Crechemania, who carries gorgeous replicas of vintage creches from around the world  Many of them are free downloads for you to print off on nice card stock paper for your child, while most of the premium downloads are offered at a very reasonable price.  Depending on whether you will be cutting and assembling these yourself before sending in the mail, or whether you will be giving it to your child to have the fun of doing it himself, you will want to check the skill level of the individual creches... though most are very simple to assemble.  

What child doesn't love opening the little doors on an advent calendar?  Vermont Christmas Company offers many choices of beautiful advent calendars in various sizes... from card size to jumbo.  Some come with their own envelope, which is very handy if you would like to send this by itself.

Other paper gifts would include coloring books, stickers, origami paper and patterns, a small book of sudoku puzzles... I found this at the Dollar Tree for $1, and the directions are in Spanish, French and English!  There are lots of options for free printables, such as paper dolls, play sets, and paper toys.  Watch for posts later this week, as I will be searching through my files for my favorite printables to share with you.  :o)  

If you sponsor through an organization like World Vision or His Hands Support Ministries where you can send gifts other than paper items only, you might enjoy starting the tradition of sending a small, non breakable ornament each year.  You have lots of wonderful gift options for you as well... an new article of clothing is an extremely significant gift for a child living in poverty. I keep my eyes open all year for ridiculously great sales on children's clothing, and often buy really nice items for 70% off or more. 

If you have a girl, I highly encourage you to give her a doll.  Someday when I visit my girls, I plan to take a Heart4Heart doll to each of them, but since I'm limited in the size package I can mail, the doll pictured here is my favorite baby doll to send to my little girls for now...  you can find it at Target for only about $3.50!  So adorable!  And in case you're wondering, I have managed to tuck this doll into a 6x9" padded mailing envelope.  :o)  Just barely.

If you're looking for something other than a baby doll and something that will fit in a 6x9" envelope, these Li'l Ones are another great choice, and are about $5 - 7 at Amazon.

Other suggested items would be a bracelet or necklace, a stuffed animal, a jump rope, or finger or hand puppets, such as the adorable Folkmanis finger puppets.

 So apparently soccer is the #1 favorite sport of boys around the world outside of the USA... and is called football to the rest of the world... I didn't know this until sponsoring a boy! You can send a soccer ball by deflating it first, and including a small hand pump in the package. Other gift ideas for a boy would include small cars, pocket LED flashlight with spare batteries, pocket calculator, a yo-yo, or what the first child I mentioned was dreaming of, a ball.  I saw a video clip of a boy who had received a shoebox of gifts from the Operation Christmas Child project, and he said his favorite gift was the harmonica.  I was delighted to find that a local store carries real ones in my town for only about $6.

I found these adorable mini lunch boxes at the dollar store last year, and have been having so much fun filling them with a few small gifts for a couple of the kids...  I bought a bunch of these little stuffed dogs for only 10 cents each on clearance after last Christmas!  They light up when you squeeze them, and say, "Ruff, ruff! Merry Christmas!"  Any of the mini lunch boxes I don't need for my own sponsored kids will be included in the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that I will be working on next month, and filling with marbles or legos.

Know that whatever you send, your gift will warm the heart of your sponsored child... and guess what?  Don't be surprised if it warms your heart more than any other gift you give this Christmas...  that is just what happens when you give to someone who has so little in material possessions, but who is so big in gratitude.

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