A gift is more than a box with pretty wrapping. It’s tangible proof that a person is cherished by someone near to them. Yet, while over $750 billion will be spent on presents this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation, nearly $95 billion worth of products will be returned.

These numbers are astounding, considering they are the projections for a year that has seen more financial unrest than any in the last 10 years. Experts believe that many plan on spending simply in hopes of lifting the spirits of their friends and family following a year of uncertainty. But rather than give for the sake of giving, what if we paused and gave with a purpose?

We are not the only ones who have seen challenges this year.

While we all experienced the setbacks of a strained healthcare environment due to the worldwide pandemic, this is nothing new for the continent of Africa. For many in sub-Saharaan nations, COVID was not only a dangerous virus, but an additional strain on an already sparse healthcare system.

Thousands suffer from conditions that could be treated just by having access to medical and surgical care.

Simple conditions such as impacted teeth and small growths may go untreated for years resulting in life-threatening tumors. For children like 11-year-old Mouhamed a lack of medical care was the difference between a life in pain and one with hope.

“To see my child suffering when there was nothing I could do to help him… I was helpless,” his father Mactar shared.​

For others like baby Mariama and twin brothers Ousseynou and Assane struggling with severely bowed legs, a simple surgery early in life could have changed the struggles they faced. Yet without access to safe medical and surgical care, these children and many like them were forced to endure their conditions with no opportunity for healing.

“It was hard for us. We knew that the neighbors were laughing about the twins,” the boys’ mother, Awa, said. “We could not hide Ousseynou and Assane away, so we all had to live with people treating them as inferior.”

Thankfully, generous friends like you see these conditions and refuse to be bystanders. For Mouhamed, Mariama, Ousseynou, and Assane, healing did arrive. Volunteers bringing free medical care came to their countries to provide the life-changing and sometimes lifesaving surgeries needed to correct these conditions.

And access to medical care did more than remove unwanted conditions, it brightened the lives of these children, encouraging them to face their futures with confidence.

“Every human being has the right to look human. To be treated as human,” volunteer surgeon Dr. Gary Parker said. “To have a place at the table of the human race.”

This Christmas, give the gift of medical care. When you give a gift of healing, you are giving hope to those who need it most. Whether $25 for an eye exam, $150 for leg braces and physical therapy, or $500 for a lifesaving surgery, your tax-deductible donation, no matter the size, will help transform the lives of those in need. Each act of mercy is only possible with your help.