Rockingham YouthCARE chaplain Deb Cunningham gives children at a school in Vietnam shoeboxes full of gifts packed by students at Rockingham Beach Primary School.
Rockingham YouthCARE chaplain Deb Cunningham gives children at a school in Vietnam shoeboxes full of gifts packed by students at Rockingham Beach Primary School.

Emotional, heart-warming and humbling were words used by Baldivis resident Deb Cunningham to describe her experience handing gifts to poverty-stricken children in Vietnam.

The Rockingham Beach Primary School YouthCARE chaplain embarked on a journey to Hanoi on February 19, and travelled with a group of 15 volunteers into the highlands of Vietnam to Sapa delivering shoeboxes packed with presents.

The 10-day trip was part of the Samaritan’s Purse Australia and New Zealand Operation Christmas Child, which the school had taken part in over the past three years by packing shoeboxes with toys, school items, clothing and personal hygiene needs.

“The main reason for my travelling to Vietnam was so that I could witness first-hand the impact of those shoeboxes on the children who receive them,” Mrs Cunningham said.

“Many times the children at our school have asked the question ‘where do our boxes go?’, ‘who gets to open our shoeboxes?’ and before I was only able to answer in general terms, but now – I have so much more that I can tell the children.”

With many memories from the trip, Mrs Cunningham said she would never forget the first school distribution. “There were more than 1000 students in the school quadrangle and as we walked in they clapped and cheered,” she said.

“As I was waiting to help distribute the boxes and watching the looks on the children’s faces, it made me realise just how much we take for granted here in Australia — we have so much compared to these children and they are just so appreciative of all that they receive.”

Mrs Cunningham described her adventure as “a trip of a lifetime” and would go again if given the opportunity.

“I guess what I learned most was that even the smallest of gifts packed into a shoebox can be an exciting thing for a child, who otherwise wouldn’t have received a gift before.”

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