The Caring Generation

  • The List
  • 17 July 2008
The Caring Generation

People who have retired have a wealth of experience they can count on to get through almost any eventuality, including caring for people less fortunate themselves.

Operation Christmas Child was set up by the charity, Samaritans Purse, to bring some happiness to millions of children throughout the world who are troubled by poverty and illness. Set up in 1990, the campaign has managed to put smiles on the faces of 60 million children at Christmas time over the last 18 years. It encourages people to fill ordinary shoe boxes with gifts that needy children will receive during the festive period.

May Bowman (70), from Kincardine in Fife, volunteers with Operation Christmas Child throughout the year by knitting hats, collecting toys and making up toiletry bags, as well as ensuring there are enough gifts to distribute.

She also checks the boxes at a nearby warehouse to ensure that the gifts packed by the public are safe and suitable.

She explains: “It is very important that every box is checked individually as something like a toy gun could cause great distress to a child who is living in the middle of a civil war. This is why I collect all year round, as anything that has to be taken out can be replaced.”

“The boxes are delivered to children’s hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters and impoverished neighbourhoods across the world so children know that people care about them.”

May first learned about Operation Christmas Child through her work with the Girl Guides. She quickly realized that the Guides would learn a number of skills from being involved, and give them an opportunity to help others. She decided she wanted to be more involved.

A few years later May visited Romania with the charity to distribute Christmas parcels. During her trip she met children living in extremely upsetting conditions, yet each child went out their way to give her the best possible welcome: “Everywhere I went the children either sang or performed for me in some way. I was greeted by the most beautiful people who made me realise that all my volunteering is more than worthwhile”

May keeps an active lifestyle and this summer will take part in Race for Life for the fourth year in a row. She also attends her weekly aerobics class which keeps her in shape and allows her to socialize: “People think that after a certain age it is impossible to make friends. I’m the opposite as I am now fortunate to have the time to join clubs and meet new people.”

Since turning 70 May feels that she can finally relax: “I no longer worry about what people think about me. I’m at a stage in life where I no longer stress over things that would have annoyed me 30 years ago.”

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