Christmas in Costa Rica (October 21, 2013)

Written by Candace Thomson

Published by Northern News Services Online on Monday, October 21, 2013

Twelve-year-old Alexia MacDonald of Yellowknife is taking a cue from Santa Claus himself this Christmas by giving presents from the North to children across the world.

She and her mother Nadia, father Jeremy and brother Nikolas, 10, are part of a group of 25 Canadians going to Costa Rica over the holidays to deliver shoe boxes full of gifts as part of Operation Christmas Child, a charity run by Samaritan's Purse International Relief. Ten countries distribute the shoe boxes for the organization, which are then received by 130 countries worldwide.

Since the program began in 1993 more than 100 million boxes have been distributed, according to the Samaritan's Purse website.

The family has forgone Christmas for themselves this year, selling items to raise the $14,000 needed for their trip instead of buying presents for each other, something MacDonald said isn't really a big deal.

"I think the trip will be better than getting presents," MacDonald said at the family's supper table on Tuesday.

"Half of the things I get for Christmas I either sell or don't use. I'm excited just to see what the kids get when they open the boxes, and how it connects with them."

The MacDonalds have taken part in filling shoe boxes for the program for years, but this is the first time they are going on the mission trip as a family.

"We just want the kids to see that things don't always come easily and there are many people that don't have anything," said Jeremy. "If it can mould their worldview to make a difference later on in life, that's what we'd like."

"(Our parents) want us to know that we don't need our phones and all of that," Alexia added.

With them the family is hoping to take at least 250 boxes filled by Yellowknifers. There are six churches in town taking part in the event, as well as N.J. Macpherson school, with 400 boxes available to be filled.

Inside the boxes are things suited for a boy or girl from the age of two to 14. Each time a box is packed it's done with one child in mind, according to Nadia.

"There is a lot of meaning behind each box that is out of our hands," she said. "Some of these kids have their needs met that we couldn't have known about."

Items such as socks, toys, jewelery and school supplies are common with a few items that people normally don't think of for a country as warm as Costa Rica ­ gloves, for example.

"We don't think about gloves because to us it's warm there, but for them 10 C in the morning is freezing," said Nadia, who has gone on similar missions in Africa.

The family will leave on Boxing Day, meeting up with the rest of their group in Houston, Texas before making the next leg of the journey to San Jose, Costa Rica. They will spend 10 days in the town of La Fortuna, giving out the boxes, and teaching a Bible class.

Empty boxes and information can be picked up at any of the churches or by contacting the Operation's Yellowknife representative, Kami Kondola at the Yellowknife Operation Christmas Child website.