A Des Moines teen is boarding a plane for Argentina this afternoon to help distribute Christmas gifts to needy children. Sixteen-year-old Kathleen Bird is the only Iowan out of some 50 people from the U.S. and Canada taking part in this leg of Operation Christmas Child, an effort through the North Carolina-based international relief group Samaritan’s Purse.
During the 13-day trip, they’ll hand out thousands of shoeboxes filled with small toys, school supplies, hygiene items and a personal note. Bird says: "My goals are to reach as many kids for Christ as I can and to tell them God loves them and that there are people in the U.S. who care about them and want them to have a good Christmas." She says, "I actually want to do this type of thing for a living when I get older. I want to go to India and do this kind of thing and be a teacher."
At a time of year when most kids are thinking about the presents they’ll be receiving in the holidays ahead, Bird says she’s looking forward to -giving- gifts. She speaks only a little Spanish but she’s not concerned about the mission to Argentina, since in many ways, it’ll be like home. She says you can go to different areas of Des Moines and see poverty not far from a flourishing community.
It’s the same in Buenos Aires, she says, "The downtown area is very European yet there are people sitting on the side of the street begging." Bird knows she’ll be confronted with language barriers, extreme poverty and other challenges, but she says her faith is strong and she’s filled with the spirit of Christmas. The shoeboxes are being hand-delivered to children in about 100 countries suffering from war, disaster, poverty, terrorism and disease.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered more than 54-million gifts to children globally. For more about the agency, call 800-353-5949 or visit the Samaritan’s Purse website .