BURLINGTON, N.C. – Communities nationwide take part in the Samaritan’s Purse ‘Operation Christmas Child’ relief effort during the holidays.

The project focuses on spreading Christmas cheer in areas that are affected by natural disasters and war.

Alex Nsengimana, 29, received one when he was seven years old when he was living in an orphanage after the Rwandan genocide.

“When I was seven years old I was living in an orphanage in Rwanda, my native country, and it was right after the Rwandan genocide,” says Nsengimana. “They [Samaritan’s Purse] brought Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to our orphanage and for the very first time in my life I received a gift at seven years old; it was so special.”

Nsengimana lost everything and everyone that year in 1994. During a speech to students at Burlington Christian Academy, he describes the feeling of receiving his gift during that tough time as receiving a gift on Christmas morning, but “times 20.”

Fast-forward to today, he works for the ministry that first gave him a ray of hope in life, paying it forward.

“Now I get to serve with this ministry, I went to high school and college and I’ve always loved to be part of this ministry because I know firsthand of the impact they’re making in kids’ lives,” he shares.

He first got involved with the ministry in high school when he moved to Minnesota after being adopted by a family. It wasn’t until he first saw the ministry’s logo and a box that he realized it was the same one that gave him so much joy.

Nsengimana now lives in Boone, North Carolina with his new wife, who also works to spread the word about the impact a simple shoebox filled with little toys and socks can make to a child in need.

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