Local launch of Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child, one of the UK s leading children s charity campaigns, is launching its annual appeal in Devon from September 7

Operation Christmas Child, one of the UK's leading children's charity campaigns, is launching its annual appeal in Devon from September 7 and is asking local individuals and communities to continue their valuable support for vulnerable children despite the economic recession.

"Our concern for this Christmas is that people, naturally, are worried by the recession and that they might be undecided about donating a shoebox in 2009," says Roger Fenton, Regional Manager of Operation Christmas Child.

The initiative delivers shoeboxes filled with gifts to children living in very difficult conditions in several countries and in 2008, a total of 34,300 shoeboxes full of presents were donated by individuals and groups across the area, including Axminster, and Honiton. The gift-filled boxes were checked at the charity's warehouses in Wadebridge, Torquay, Ilminster and Exeter before being transported to Kosovo, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.

"Circumstances are worrying for many people in this country at present, but it is an awful lot worse for the vulnerable children and orphans we seek to support. Many are abandoned by their parents or have been removed from abusive situations by the authorities, are ill, or are living in poverty or squalid conditions with their families, conditions that have worsened significantly during the global recession.

"Last year it was reported* that the average spend in the UK on gifts at Christmas, per person, was �359. If everyone gave just a tiny portion of that sum to put together a gift-filled shoebox, we would have a fantastic gift for a child who may well receive nothing at all if we cannot get them a shoebox. It's amazing to see the power of giving, to see what simple things like a toy car, a doll, some crayons or even toothpaste and a toothbrush of their own means to these kids - it puts our expectations of Christmas into a fresh perspective.

"It's important to understand that we also help these children and their families - where they have them - year round. We work with communities who are challenged by having no ready access to clean drinking water, for example, or who are impacted by HIV/AIDS. We offer support throughout the year, although Christmas is a special time to help a child. I am optimistic that the communities in Devon will rise to the occasion this year, too."

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Anyone wishing to participate in this year's Operation Christmas Child campaign should visit www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or contact the Helpline on 0870 011 2002.