Sparkt Bridges

She Inspires Kindness For Kids Growing Up Like She Did

A shoebox full of simple gifts changed her life. Now she's traveling the country, assuring volunteers the boxes they're packing DO make a difference.

This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

Livia Young's story reads like a book of fiction.

One woman told her it reminded her of the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist.

But Livia's story is real.

Now she's sharing it with others, showing them how they're making a difference in the lives of children who are just like she once was.

(Livia Young visits Operation Christmas Child volunteers in Pittsburgh)

Livia was born in Romania. Her mother gave her up for adoption when she was two. She grew up in an orphanage where she went without the basics we take for granted. She remembers eating stale, moldy bread, and sharing a toothbrush and a single bar of soap with other children. She felt abandoned. "My life in the orphanage was more like 'can I survive another day?'" she remembers.

"We did not know what it's like for someone to love us. I could not even dream."

When Livia was 12, a group from the Christian organization Samaritan's Purse came to visit, bringing a shoebox full of small gifts for each child.

For Livia, now 32, the visit and the gift were so life-changing she now talks to groups preparing Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts about the impact they're having.

We caught up with her as she visited volunteers at Unity Presbyterian Church in Greentree, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh:

Livia's shoebox changed her life in a much more literal way. When the group came to her orphanage 20 years ago, she bonded with the missionary who gave her her box. Connie Satterfield adopted Livia two years later and brought her to live in the U.S. Livia is now married and living in Newnan, GA, southwest of Atlanta.

Samaritan's Purse is packing and collecting Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes right now. Thousands of churches across the country are participating, but you don't have to belong to one of them to get involved:

  • Find a shoebox drop-off location near you by clicking here. You don't need one of the 'official' red and green shoeboxes -- any shoebox-sized box will do. Click here for simple packing instructions, including what to include.
  • Pack a virtual shoe box on line. Click here to find out how.
  • Volunteer at one of the organization's processing centers where they get the boxes ready to ship overseas (Atlanta, Baltimore area, Boone & Charlotte, NC, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, and Fullerton, CA). Click here for details.

Livia has a personal recommendation if you're packing a shoebox.

"Put in a letter and a picture of yourself. People who have packed these shoe boxes, they pack them with so much prayer and so much joy, and I experienced that. Anyone who receives a gift wants to know who it came from."

The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced with the generous support of UPMC.

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