[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/17/art.poteet.jpg
caption=”Tanya Poteet, 18, volunteers with Operation Christmas Child.”]
Tanya Poteet says she will never forgot how she was abused and abandoned by her parents in Russia when she was eight years old. She grew up in an orphanage, separated from her brother and sister, hearing that she was worthless and would never be loved. The first time she felt like anyone cared about her was when she received a shoe box full of Christmas presents from a charity in the U.S. called Operation Christmas Child.
Now 18, Tanya lives in St. Louis with her biological siblings and their adopted family. With more happiness and stability than she’s ever known, she still wanted to help Operation Christmas Child, the group that gave her so much. The organization hand-delivers millions of decorated shoe boxes filled with letters, candy, school supplies and other necessities to needy kids in 90 countries.
Tanya just returned from Quito, Ecuador delivering shoe box gifts to kids in orphanages there. Contrary to the name, Operation Christmas Child believes that giving shouldn’t only be limited to Christmas time for the neediest youngsters in the world. Whether it was a pencil or socks from the dollar store, Tanya knows first hand how something small can mean so much.
Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview