“ Evangelist Billy Graham's charity, running Operation Christmas Child which aims to send shoe boxes filled with Christmas gifts to children in areas of crisis throughout the world „
Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritans Purse, a Christian relief and development organisation. Every year in November thousands of schools, churches and individuals are involved in wrapping, packing and sending gift filled shoe boxes to children in less privilaged countries. In 2009 1.18 million shoeboxes were sent from the UK, mainly to countries in Eastern Europe, but also to Mozambique.
The beauty of Operation Christmas Child is that each shoebox is individual so you know that a particular child will receive the gifts you chose, and each extra shoebox means that an extra child will receive a gift at Christmas. Boxes are distributed to children affected by war, natural disaster and poverty, most of whom would not otherwise get any presents at Christmas. Boxes contain toys, toiletry items, stationary (children may be unable to attend school if they can't provide this), hats and gloves.
I first got involved packing shoeboxes at university 10 years ago and have done some every year since then. It is a wonderful feeling to choose and carefully pack the gifts, thinking about the child who will receive them. I have got really into it and now look out for things for the shoeboxes all year around, for example you can't buy tennis balls in the winter very easily so I buy them when I see them. I also ask for spare shoe boxes whenever I am in a shoe shop as come October/ November time they never have any as everybody is after them!
I have also volunteered at an OCC warehouse for the past seven years and love to see the next stage in the life of a shoebox. They are checked, packed in boxes onto pallets, then loaded into a lorry to be driven across the continent to be distibuted via schools, orphanages, hospitals and churches. I know many people who have gone to take part in the distribution (they pay their own costs) who have come back with amazing stories about the impact of the boxes on children's lives and how they are so touched that someone they don't even know has cared enough about them to pack a box for them.
Boxes can be packed for either a boy or girl in three age ranges, 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. The most popular age range by far is 5-9, with fairly even distibution across the sexes. 10-14 boys have been short in the past but last year there was a particular lack of 2-4 boxes.
Operation Christmas Child is part of a Christian charity and there have been criticisms, largely from Muslim organisations, who see the project as an attempt to bribe children to become Christians. In reality participants and volunteers are both Christians and non Christians and the project has been taken up by many schools and organisations who don't share the faith but think it is an excellent project they want to be involved in. Anything 'religious' (Christmas cards are OK) are removed from the boxes and a booklet containing the Christmas story is distributed with the boxes only where the local partners agree it would be culturally appropriate.
More information can be found on the OCC website:
Please check it out and consider filling a shoebox this year when the time comes. It is great fun and so rewarding!
I read a few reviews about the Samaritans Purse and the concerns. My friends brother works for Samaritans Purse so I spoke to her and thought you'd be interested to know something from within the charity.
It is a wonderful idea of sharing gifts with children less fortunate than ourselves at Christmas time, and showing them that there are people in the world who care about them.
Each box is made up for a boy or a girl of a specific age, you can choose from three age brackets 2-4, 5-9, 10-14, however many people choose babies or small children, the least popular being the 10+ age group so if you are planning on doing a box for a child remember the older age group too.
On the website and leaflets that you see around, there are plenty of suggestions and ideas for the age ranges, obviously perishables such as chocolate's, things like liquids are no good because of the journey and there must be no political stuff. Things like soaps, flannels, hats, gloves, socks, hairbrush, hair ties for girls, cars for boys, colouring things, small toys, fun biro's for older children & note pads, card games, small picture books are all good ideas. Nothing valuable or breakable.
You can wrap your shoebox - But DON'T seal it as the charity has to check everybox before it leaves the depot to make sure it has got what it's supposed to have in it.
The shoeboxes are then taken to areas where children are less fortunate, the children are delighted to have these boxes, they are told about the story of Christmas and Jesus love for all no matter what their faith. After all it is a CHRISTMAS shoe box! and that's what Christmas is about, without it we wouldn't have Christmas in the first place. The children are not brainwashed just loved. Each year when they go out they try and give the boxes to different children who haven't had a box before, if a child is given one and they had one last year they are encouraged to think about those who didn't have one last year and pass it on.
My friends brother says that Samaritans Purse is not only about Christmas boxes they also have a lot of involvement with the government in Sudan, they were the only ones allowed to stay in the country of Sudan during the recent crisis this is an excerpt from a worker;
'I worked in multiple countries for Samaritan's Purse managing a variety of programs and can personally say they are one of the hardest working, ethically sound organizations out there.'
'We would tell them "a gift from the American people who love you and want you to know that God loves you." Regarding CEO pay, when a Samaritans Purse hospital kept getting bombed in S. Sudan, Franklin met with Sudan's president and asked them to stop-and they did. Watch the N. Korea video on Samaritans Purse's website right now- because of who Franklin Graham is, Samaritan's Purse gets into areas and helps people who couldn't be reached otherwise. CEO's are paid on their value to the organization, and Franklin is worth every penny.'
Many people have critised Franklin as he has a jet to get around the country but my friends brother says it's impossible without it as the time it takes getting stuck in airports in far out parts of the country takes hours and hours and is wasted time, whereas much more can be done if they use their own plain to meet with politicians and those in Sudan doing the work. Here we are lucky to have good roads and good train service (some may laugh but have you ever been to Sudan?!).
I guess we have no idea unless we've come into contact directly with the sheer hardships others face and the effects of other governments on their people. There will always be those who are against anything because it may cause offense, but if we carry on along that road everyone will be walking on egg shells soon and it won't be a very nice world to live in (worse than now). It seems to me that this charity is a good charity working towards the good of others and I think the more we support charities like this the better place the world will be one day.
Samaritans Purse are a charity I first became aware of through my old church. It is a Christian charity, run by evangelist Billy Graham, although does not have a strong Christian message.
The charity is commonly known as a shoebox appeal. They appeal to people in more economically developed countries, such as Britain, to fill a shoebox with little gifts to give to less advantaged children around the world. A leaflet is given out in many churches and schools explaining the items that are allowed in the boxes (chocolate isn't for instance, as it might melt).
The boxes are then collected at designated collection points (again, usually schools and churches), usually in mid november, and are shipped out to where they need to go.
I think the premise of the appeal is fantastic, and really embodies the true spirit of Christmas. I enjoy preparing a box or two each year, knowing that it will go somewhere it will really be appreciated.
I have recently heard arguements against the charity based on the fact there are rumours that the people distributing the boxes are essentially missionaries, or that Christian pamphlets are being included in the boxes. While I doubt this is being done without the permission or knowledge of those compiling the boxes, I actually have no objection if it is.
Christmas should not just be about giving of presents, and the children recieving the boxes should know why we are celebrating this holiday. Taking away the essential Christian message of the holiday makes it just a crass excuse for shopping, rather than a celebration of a miraculous event. And if you don't believe in Jesus, then why celebrate anyway?
I realise I'm likely to get slated for my stance on Christmas, but at its core it is a Christian celebration, and what could be more Christian than giving to those less fortunate?
Christmas is coming, and many parents of children of school age not hunting down that elusive "must have" toy, (gogo hamsters this year apparently - cost £10, on ebay for £40) may be involved in Operation Christmas Child through this charity, Samaritan's Purse. It seems to be a way of getting back to the real meaning of Christmas and thinking of others. Over a million boxes were apparently filled and sent in Britain last year, the charity also collects in the US, Canada and elsewhere in Europe.
The basic premise is that you pack a shoe box with little gifts and take it to a collection point, with a donation of a minimum £2.50 to cover the cost of transporting the box to one of the countries where they are distributed, this year to " Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Kenya, Kosova, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Romania, Serbia, Swaziland, Ukraine and Zimbabwe." according to the charity itself.
Which all sounds like a good idea, and is something that my daughter has been keen to participate in for the last two years after hearing about it in assembly in her non-denominational school. For two years now we have packed up a box full of thoughtful little things, from the 4 categories suggested of toys, education supplies, hygiene items, and other items such as small clothing items, and found we can pack in a suprising amount. Generally we spend about £20 on a box by the time we have bought something from each of the four categories, which is probably the price of a gift for one of my children's cousins.
However, much as we have found this an enjoyable pre-Christmas activity, I have to say that my main reason for writing about our experience is to sound a note of caution. Ironically whilst googling the charity so that my daughter could visualise the kind of place that her box would go, I have been lead to wonder if the scheme and charity is as straightforward as it seems (children with toys and things abundant pack box to think of others, and send to less well off child for Christmas), and though we are still sending a box this year, I have my reservations.
The charity does not hide its Christian roots - and as the boxes are for Christmas, I don't have a problem with there being a message of Christmas, even though I am not a church goer. There does seem to be some concern from reputable sources such as the Guardian Newspaper (article published Nov 9th), that the charity, which has evangelical roots and connections with Billy Graham (it is run by his son), might be a little more pushy with rather hard hitting Christian literature than it appears at first sight. The charity itself says (link at bottom of this review) that it distributes to children regardless of their faith, and that literature is not put in the boxes, but is just available. Elsewhere I have read that having a leaflet which has a "pledge" in it is a condition of having a box. It's not the fact that this is a Christian organisation that I have an issue with, or the Birth of Christ being a key message that I have a problem with, it's the fact that the promotional information supplied by schools such as mine really plays down the fact that gifts are given with a christian message, and from what I have read I am now wondering how much pressure is actually put on those receiving these well-meant gifts.
There has been much discussion of this issue on netmums, amongst other places, and I have been struggling to make my mind up where I stand on this issue. I feel that we have packed a box with the best of intentions each year, but that I would hate to think that a child of another faith is having a Christian viewpoint foisted on them with a shoebox - it smacks too much of early missionary ploys to me. I do think Christmas should be to do with Christ, even as a non-church goer I hold this to be true, however I would rather my gift, or rather that of my child, had no strings attached.
Samaritan's Purse say in their FAQ's, link, below, that they don't require children to go to a Bible class or sign a pledge, but even within that document the message is a little ambiguous. I do wonder if this is really appropritate for a non-faith school and will be discussing it with my child's school.
For the moment I am choosing to hope that the Box we have packed and wrapped up, will be received and enjoyed by some child in need. We have packed gloves, toys, pens, paper, stickers, playing cards, a soft toy and lots of little things for a child, all of them new, which is a condition of how the box should be packed. Some of the things have been bought during the year, and some my children bought with their pocket money, so I hope our box will indeed be of use and bring the joy that it is intended to. We have added sweets (chocolate and other food is not allowed), and hair things and chose to put a "girl 5-9" sticker on our box - we could have chosen a girl or boy from various age groups.
Having read what I have, however, next year I may be looking for another scheme or way to send something to someone for Christmas. I know that giving to Charity is often not straightforward, with many charities the actual percentage of money that gets to people it is aimed at is very low, however I have found what I have read quite unsettling. Sometimes Google is not a good thing. I am not sure after what I have read that I can urge anyone to go to Samaritan's Purse online and find out how to do a box (deadline 18th November), but hope that what I have learned might make someone make up their own mind.
The British Humanist Organisation have written what appears to me to be a balanced and well researched article on this issue, with suggestions for alternative ways to give, and I shall be referring to this when and if the leaflet gets sent home next year ( link below).
It's good to give, but it would be better to be able to give and be sure that you know exactly what you are giving to. Sending a child some gifts for Christmas should be straightforward, I am reserving judgement as to whether Samaritan's Purse is the simple way of giving that it appears to be at first sight. I am not sure that it is.
Samaritan's Purse Viewpoint:
(take gaps out of link for it to work)
Article from The Guardian:
Each year the Samaritan's do this fantastic appeal - you can usually pick up entry forms in Asda. You basically fill up a gift wrapped shoe box with items for Children in Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia who aren't fortunate enough to get gifts.
Each box must be packed according to strict guidelines. If you are not part of a group who organise this then each box needs a £2.50 donation, to allow for administration and postage costs - anything left over is donated to the Samaritan's Purse. A lot of Churches, Schools, etc do these shoe boxes, and they can normally subsidise the cost - my local church is doing them with a 30p submission fee.
You will be amazed at how much you can fit into the box - in mine I have the following, all bought from Asda or the £1 shop - I have just been buying a little at a time week by week with my regular shopping:
Pencils (20p), Pens (20p), Pencil Crayons (10p), Wax Crayons (50p), Colouring Book and Colour Paper Selection (£2), Toothpaste (50p), Toothbrushes (£1 for 10), Hair Brush and Comb, Bobbles and Clips (set £1), flannel and flower scrunchie puff (50p each), Gloves, Hat, Scarf set (£7), Make your Own Jewellery Set (£1), 3 bags of Jelly Sweets (39p each or 3 for £1).
Total cost: £15.50 plus £2.50 donation - less than any one individual gift I will buy for family and friends this year and it will make a child happy and smile, I just hope one year, I can donate my time, to go and deliver them. I think it would be very rewarding.
Ideas: If you work in a large corporation as I do, email your department. Ask each person to donate 1 thing - if they cant be bothered to go out to the shops and buy something ask them to donate £2.50. This way you can make up several boxes, you're doing something to help, plus you are not actually spending any money! Unless you want to and make up some additional boxes.
Things you can send
Small Toys: Bear, soft toy, tennis ball, finger puppets, jigsaw, yo-yo, building blocks, small musical instrument. For boys trucks and cars, for girls dolls, clip on earrings, etc.
Educational Supplies: Felt Pens, pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, crayons, eraser, colouring book, notepad, picture or puzzle book, chalk, pencil case, stickers, etc.
Hygiene Items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, soap, comb, flannel, hair clips or brush, etc.
Other Items: Sweets (like jellies, boiled sweets, etc to be in date until at least March 2010), gloves, scarf, sunglasses, cap, hat, bangles, necklaces, etc.
Things you cannot send
No food, especially chocolate (although non choc sweets are ok, see above)
No medicines or vitamins of any kind
No war related items, toy guns, soldiers or knives of any kind
No clothing, other than listed above
No fragile items including glass containers, mirrors, etc
No liquids including blow bubbles, shampoo, bubble bath, aerosols
No dangerous items, any sharp objects like scissors or razors
Nothing of a political nature
No soft toys without a CE mark (including home knitted items)
Happy Shoe Boxing!
I imagine that many Dooyoo members have already been getting organised for christmas . Perhaps you've been paying a few pounds a week towards a big hamper of goodies, perhaps you've got one or two christmas presents already stashed away in the attic .
Those of you with children will perhaps already be dreading the new, noisy, messy toys that will be given to your child by indulgent grandparents and proceed to drive you mad until the batteries run out .
Now, imagine your child waking up on Christmas morning, and not seeing a tree, decorations or a pile of gifts . Imagine them looking out of the window, and seeing not your neighbours bloody annoying neon reindeer, but the remains of a house, perhaps bombed or destroyed in some natural disaster. There are children that will wakeup like this on Christmas day - knowing that elsewhere in the world children are having fun and opening their new toys, but that, for them , Christmas is just another day to be lived through .
Now, you can't help every child in the world have a happy christmas, but for a few pounds and a little of your time, you could put a smile on one face , thanks to Operation Christmas Child , which is organised by the Samaritans Purse charity.
The concept is simple - get a shoe box, or any box of similar size, and decorate it with wrapping paper, bows, glitter - anything you like . Make it look nice and jazzy and exciting, but remember to wrap the lid and the box seperately = as the items inside will have to be checked over to check they are safe and appropriate to send.
Then, select the age group you'd like your gift to go to - 2-4 years, 5-9 years, or 10-14 years . Also, decide if you'd prefer to send the gift to a boy or a girl.
Next,select the items you'd like to include in the box - they do have to be in good condition, and preferably new. Bear in mind the boxes have some way to travel, so avoid putting in anything that may perish,leak,or melt . Also, bear in mind that many of the children receiving these gifts live in countries devasted by war, so it's always good not to put in any reminders, such as toy guns or tanks .
My daughter and I are both doing boxes this year - My daughter decided she would like to do a box for a girl her own age (she's six), and throughout the year has been buying little bits and bobs out of her pocket money to put into her box . So far, her box contains a selection of notepads, colouring books, pens and pencils, as well as some pretty hairgrips, some marbles, a toothbrush, some toothpaste and a few items of costume jewellery . She's also put a photo of herself into the box, and a little letter she's written .
My box was aimed at a boy between 10-14 and includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, flannel, soap and a comb, as well as a wallet, a pocket etch-a-sketch, and a coupleof flashing bouncy balls .
Both boxes will have a few more items added to them over the next few weeks.
Once your box is full, you'll need to attach a label to it stating whether it's for a boy or a girl, and tick the age group . This label can be printed off via their website (and the details of that will be at the bottom of the review). You'll also need to attach an envelope containing £2.50 (this goes towards the cost of transporting the packages to the area of the world where they are needed).
Then, simply call 020 8559 2044 or email them at email@example.com for
details of your nearest drop off points - my local one is a church, and I can drop my box off anytime between the 1st to the 18th of November .
Now, I really enjoy packing these boxes, and knowing that they are going to be recieved by someone who deserves a little joy in their lives . I've been doing it for three years though, and as I just tend to pick up little bits and bobs for the boxes throughout the year, it doesn't seem to cost me much in money, time , or effort. Over 1.2 million shoebozes were given out last year .
However, one thing I do see as a slight disadvantage is that it is a Christian organisation - and it does say on the main page 'Where it's appropriate our local partners also make available to children a booklet of Bible stories, including the original Christmas story - the birth of Jesus.'
Now, I'm all for spreading a bit of love and joy at Christmas , and I appreciate that Christmas is a christian festival, but I do worry about the pamphlets . I think it's enough to bring a joy to a child that doesn't have much, we don't need to feed them religion at the same time!
With that said, the OCC specific website doesn't try and shove its beliefs down our throats, so I'm inclined to believe they handle the issue of religion in a tactful way .
Overall, I think this is a great way of giving someone less fortunate a slightly brighter christmas , and it's really worth getting behind. A child is a child no matter where they live, what race they are, or what wars are raging around them - and every child deserves to smile at Christmas .
http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk/ is the website you'll need if you're interested - it also has excellent resources for teachers of community leaders who might be interested in doing this within schools or local groups!
Overall, a great idea , 4 stars!
It really feels like Christmas is getting close: I've just wrapped 2 shoeboxes! I'll explain.
For some years now I have been involved with Operation Christmas Child - a charity that asks people to fill a shoebox with gifts for needy children that are then distributed around the world. When I first heard of them I made a shoebox and took it to my nearest drop off centre - these can be found on their website by simply typing in your postcode.
Now however, I organise the collection of shoeboxes at my school. Last year was the first year we did it as a school and I set the children a target of 50 shoebox gifts ....... we made 92! This year our target is 100 so I'll update nearer Christmas to say if we achieved it.
The idea behind Operation Christmas Child is so simple. People wrap a shoebox and then fill it with little presents. These shoeboxes are collected and taken to warehouses around the UK where they are checked. The shoebox gifts are then put on big lorries and shipped all over the world to countries such as Romania, Bosnia, Serbia, Armenia and Mozambique. They are then given to disadvantaged children. These children are often living in orphanages or on the street. Even the children lucky enough to still live with their family often have very deprived lives and for most children, the shoebox will be their only gift on the year. It makes me feel very privileged to think I could be giving a child their only present of the year, especially when I think of the children I know, including my own son who will be spoiled rotten at Christmas! On the charities website there is currently a little video playing showing a young boy receiving his gift. He is absolutely ecstatic, jumping and shouting all over the place. It's amazing to see how excited he is and it makes me wants to make 10 shoebox gifts! It really shows that such a little thing to us is such a huge deal to those children.
*Items to include*
There are four categories of items to include and it is asked that the boxes contain something from each section. That is to avoid one child getting loads of toys but no practical items such as a toothbrush. It makes sense to me and doesn't make it difficult to fill the shoebox ata ll as there is a lot of items that fit into each category.
1. Toys - I love buying toys so this is a lot of fun for me! Things I have included previously are: soft toys, hand puppets, tennis balls, yoyos, dolls, puzzles, mini jigsaws, plastic harmonica. I get a lot of toys from the Tesco party section where they have cheap plastic toys for party bags. You can buy packs of 4 yoyos and puzzles for £1 so it works out pretty cheap especially if you are making more than one box so can share the packs between boxes.
2. Educational items - notebooks, pencils, pens, crayons, colouring pencils, sharpeners, erasers, colouring books, chalks, pencil case, stickers.
I buy packs of cheap crayons and colouring pencils and then put a handful in each box (inside a pencil case). This year I have also bought the mechanical pencils, the sort that you click the end down and more lead comes out. I found a pack of 15 for £1 in Poundland and I think these are ideal as they can be used without a sharpener.
In some countries the children can only attend the free school if they can provide their own pencils and paper so including these items could mean a child could attend school for the first time.
3. Hygiene items - toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, flannels, sponges, comb, hairbrush. Last year, this is the section my school collection had least of. I think it's difficult for children in this country to imagine someone being excited about receiving a toothbrush for Christmas, yet for some children it could be their best present. I remember reading a story on the charities website about a little boy who cried when he saw he had a toothbrush as he had wanted one for so long!
4. Other - hats, scarves, gloves, bangles, sunglasses, sweets (with a long sell by date).
I've asked my Mum to knit me as many scarves as possible to help fill these boxes!
While there are many items that can fill the boxes there are a few items they ask you not to include:
* Liquid of any sort as the packaging could break and it would ruin the box and possibly many others. This includes blowing bubbles and shampoo.
* Any war related items including army figures, toy tanks and guns. Many of these children have lived through a war and these sorts of toys could be very traumatic for them.
* Novels - the children will almost certainly not be able to read in English.
* Food - except for sweets. They ask that chocolate is not included as it will melt in the boxes.
* Any dangerous items including scissors and razors.
I have heard a bit of criticism directed towards Operation Christmas Child recently and I decided to look into it. I have heard that the charity only gives children a shoebox if they sign up to a group like a church school. I also read that the charity tries to force children to convert to Christianity in order to receive a shoebox.
However their website states:
'Our approach is to give shoeboxes to children in need, regardless of their background or beliefs. Where it's appropriate our local partners also make available to children a booklet of Bible stories, including the original Christmas story - the birth of Jesus.'
So yes, whilst they may introduce the child to Christianity through a storybook, I hardly think they force children to change religions. They make no secret that they are a Christian organisation that spreads the word of Jesus's love and I personally do not believe a lot of the negatives I have read about them. I think some people are very wary of religious organisations and often perceive ill-doings where there are none. (I myself am of no particular religion, in case anyone wondered!).
So to conclude, I hope this has introduced the idea of the Christmas shoebox to people. I especially hope that it will encourage people to join in and make a very special Christmas gift for a needy child. Imagine how good you will feel knowing that a child is having a Christmas because of you! If you need any more convincing, go to their website and watch the video of this little boy:
Gosh, there is a lot of untruths here. Samaritan's Purse IS a Christian International Relief organization. NO it absolutely is NOT a "Billy Graham charity!" It has its own board and always has. It is run by Billy Grahams son who recently took over his Daddy's organization as Billy Graham has grown too elderly to do the day to day. Franklin Graham is evangelistic from his head to his toes - he doesn't hide it so it isn't fooling anyone, nor does he care to fool anyone. Now the biggest lie is that Operation Christmas Child boxes go to children who will accept his message (of Jesus Christ). This is not only wrong but stupid biased and bigoted statement to attacked Christianity. The shoe box gifts go into the Sudan, India, Iraq, N.Korea, and many other places where the gospel presentation is FORBIDDEN. Sorry u r wrong!
I thought these boxes were a lovely idea too till I looked into the organisation that runs the charity and their philosophy. They are an evanagelical group who distribute your presents in exchange for children attending their workshops and accepting their beliefs. If you check their background you will see their leader's words of hatred and bigotry. Do you want to be implicated with this? IS this how you see the message of Christmas?
Sometimes all is not as it seems!
Please click on this link and then make up your own mind about Samaritan's Purse -
I think the idea of filling a shoebox with presents and toys for needy children is wonderful - and I will be helping my little boy to do one. But definitely not with these guys - they are less about love and respect and more about conversion, proselytising and winning souls!
There are many other brilliant organisations sending Christmas shoeboxes to needy children - with no strings!!
Its that time of year again. The leaves have barely started to fall from the trees, yet the shops are packed full of selection boxes, mince pies and hangover remedies galore. Schools have begun preparing for their nativity plays, and children are counting the days til Santa comes. The festive season is upon us, whether we are ready for it or not. Be prepared to spend a small fortune in the next couple of months on cards, presents, food and alcohol. Ive gotten very cynical about Christmas, as all too often we forget its real meaning. I make a point of only sending religious Christmas cards, but that doesnt mean I dont believe in Santa! Christmas is a magical time for many people, and a pretty lonely and miserable time for others. However, folk tend to be a bit more charitable at this time of year, and will part with their cash for good causes a little more readily than usual. The thing about giving money to charity is that you sometimes wonder how it is spent. You like to think of your cash as helping somebody in need, but it could just as easily be paying for a leaflet drop (not that these arent needed) or going towards the Chief Executives yearly bonus. The beauty of the Samaritans Purse is that you can choose exactly how your money is spent.
The Samaritans Purse has been running Operation Christmas Child since 1990. It is a simple, yet fantastic idea. Basically, you can fill shoeboxes with small gifts, and the charity delivers them to needy children in 13 different countries including India, Croatia, Swaziland and Mozambique. Last year, the charity delivered 1.8 million shoeboxes. When you think about it, they put smiles on the faces of 1.8 million children, who would otherwise have got nothing.
If this sounds like something you would like to do, then first of all, you have to decide the sex and age of the child you wish to buy gifts for. The age categories are 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14. You must be able to fit everything into a medium sized shoebox, so the presents should be fairly small. The charity suggests that you select from the following items:
A cuddly toy
A wrapped bar of soap and a flannel
A notepad, picture book or colouring book
Crayons, felt pens, pencils and pencil sharpener
A hat, cap, gloves and scarf
A small musical instrument
A small ball or tennis ball
Sweets (at least March of next year sell by date)
Jewellery, hair bands, clip on earrings toy cars or trucks
A greetings card or a small photo of yourself
You should not include any of the following:
Chocolate, crisps or other edible items
War related items (e.g. toy soldiers or guns)
Anything liquid or sharp
Clothing (other than listed above)
Anything of a political, racial or religious nature
Asda and Tesco sell lots of small cuddly toys that are a perfect size and cost only a couple of pounds. You could also buy small colouring books and crayons from the supermarkets that cost next to nothing. The Early Learning Centre sells little musical instruments and puzzles that cost less that £1. It doesnt really take much to fill a shoebox, but I like to cram in as much as possible.
When you put the items into the shoebox, do not wrap them individually. Wrap the box itself in Christmas paper and wrap the lid separately. Dont stick the lid to the box, use an elastic band instead as the boxes have to be checked for customs requirements. You should stick a label to the lid of the box to show the gender and age of the child that the gift is for. If you cant get hold of a Samaritans Purse leaflet for the label, you can download them from their website www.samaritanspurse.uk.com. The charity asks that you enclose £2 or more towards distribution, transportation and promotion. You can write a cheque made payable to Samaritans Purse and put it into the shoebox, or you can pay online. If you pay online you will be given a code to write on the label, so make sure you take a note of it.
Many churches and schools operate as drop off points, so to find your nearest one visit their website and enter your postcode. If you require a collection, you must have at least 50 boxes, and a school, business or shop address. The boxes are collected between the 4th and 20th of November. Last year my school was a drop off point, and the children were really enthusiastic about the project. We all watched a video produced by the Samatitans showing the gifts being delivered and I confess it made my eyes fill up a little. Children can easily buy little gifts for the shoeboxes with their pocket money, so it doesnt have to be mum and dad that fork out for it all! The children really enjoy choosing the gifts too, and it is lovely to see them thinking about other kids more needy than themselves. It is just the thing that we should be encouraging, especially at this time of year when they are busy writing their mile long christmas lists.
Most people know somebody who is a nightmare to buy for at Christmas. What do you buy the person who has everything? Well, last year I asked a couple of fairly wealthy relatives if I could put together shoeboxes on their behalf instead of buying them something, and they were delighted. They got to choose the gender and age of the children and I did the rest. Oxfam cottoned on to this idea a while ago, and you can buy goats, school dinners and teachers online from them! The thing I love about Operation Christmas Child is that you get to think about what to buy, and go out and get it for yourself. It just seems so much more personal to me. Id love to be there to see these children open their presents, the expression on their faces must be priceless.
The helpline for this years appeal is 0870 011 2002.
Go on you know it makes sense!
Just a quick nag. If you do one thing for me this year, make it this thing. Ignore all the book-purchase commands, the website visit nags, even eat ready meals and don't cook your own. But do this thing for me, eh? If you make a purchasing decision from anything I've ever written, make it from this thing. Pack a shoebox. A shoebox? Yes, a shoebox. Not any old shoebox, but a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. It's a charity thang, and a super one, run by the charity Samaritan's Purse. We've filled our shoeboxes for the last few years, and this year we Murphys thought we'd ask you to fill one too. Operation Christmas Child is a simple idea really: shoeboxes packed with small gifts for children are collected and distributed in places across the world less fortunate than some, areas devasted by poverty, or famine, or war. It can bring some light to dark existences and it enables those lucky amongst us to share some of our good fortune and seasonal best wishes. Last year, over five million shoeboxes filled with goodies went to over ninety-five countries across the world. Last year, for example, 120,000 parcels were sent to children in Afghanistan. Here in the UK we made over one million shoeboxes and sent them to orphanages, street projects and and children's hospitals in almost any suffering country you can think of. Isn't that just super? This is what you need to do: First of all, get your shoebox! Then decide whether you'd like to make your gift for a girl or a boy, and for what age range of child you'd like to make smile - choose ages 2-4, or 5-9, or 10-14. Cover it with Christmassy wrapping paper. Then fill it with small presents and also an envelope containing £2.00 which covers all Operation Christmas Child's costs for transport and overheads and all that jazz. Stick a label (found at the website, details later) on it. Then stretch an elastic band around th
e lot and trundle off to your nearest Kwik Fit Centre after 5th November. Jolly good of Kwik Fit I think; their centres are acting as Operation Christmas Child collection points this year. If you wanted to do this as part of a large group - a community association or a school project for example - then you can ring the charity's helpline on 0870 011 2002 to see if they can arrange a collection for you. And that's it! You've sent a child in an unhappy situation something especially for them so that they have something especially for them at least once this year. Doesn't that make you smile? There are things you do need to think about though, when you're packing your box. Because of custom regulations you should send new items, not second-hand ones, for the safety of the little ones don't send things so small they could be choked on, don't send books in the English language (duh!) and sadly, don't send anything like a toy gun, which isn't appropriate for a child in the midst of real conflict. Here's the Operation Christmas Child's full list of DON'Ts just to make sure you don't go wrong: Edible items (e.g. crisps, biscuits, tinned food, or cake) War-related items (e.g. toy guns and soldiers, knives Clothing (other than listed above) Glass containers, mirrors, or fragile items Liquids of any type (e.g. blow bubbles, shampoos, bubble bath, toiletry sets, or aerosols) Toys which depend on batteries Sharp objects Medicines Books with words And in case you're stuck for inspiration as to what you CAN put in, here are some of their suggestions for the DOs: A cuddly toy A toothbrush or toothpaste A notepad, colouring book, or picture book Pencils and pens A set of crayons or felt pens A hat, cap, gloves, or scarf A small ball or tennis ball A puzzle (i.e. small jigsaw) For boys: a toy car, truck, passenger plane or similar
item For girls: jewellery (i.e. pair of clip earrings), make-up, or hair accessories A greeting card or a photo of yourself Conor, Kieran and I have just finished filling our third year of shoeboxes. In fact, this year we've filled five altogether: one each at home and two at our school, who have taken up the idea this year after Conor did a show and tell last year. I think it's a fantastic thing for anyone to do, it gives you a real glow when you've packed up your little box of goodies and taken it off to the collection centre. But it's also a wonderful thing for families to do together. I quietly upped the pocket money I give my two a month or two before we started this year and so they've been able to choose and pay for the small gifts inside themselves. It's been fun for them, but a little bit of a worthy lesson too. They understand the value of money a little better, they understand the value of sharing a little better and they understand a little better that not everyone is as lucky as they are. But most of all, they've also had fun. We all love Operation Christmas Child around here. You should know that this is an evangelical Christian organisation. It's run by those famous American bible bashers, the Graham family, and along with the shoeboxes, "good news" Christian leaflets will be distributed in those street projects and hospitals and orphanages. I'm not a Christian. I don't give money to Christian missions in the developing world, but I do make a shoebox each year. It doesn't make a difference to me, but it might to you, although I hope it doesn't. Christmas and the Christian ideal of sharing and giving and loving your neighbour better than yourself, even if it is, amongst the fraught lifestyles we all have today, just for one day a year, means a lot to me. Your faith may not be this faith, but I'd like to think your faith wouldn't stop you from reaching out to a
child in need with a box of small, inexpensive gifts and a smile on your face. If you'd like to find out more about Operation Christmas Child then visit the Samaritan's Purse website, you'll find it at: http://www.samaritanspurse.org.uk/index.asp?section=Operation+Christmas+Child But do pack that shoebox.
I was at an orphanage in the Serbian town of Sombor, where 85 children lived. Christmas had come early for these children as a team of volunteers from the charity Samaritan’s Purse, brought shoeboxes full of gifts to distribute. In a short time a room full of children screaming with excitement was transformed into Santa’s grotto. Shoeboxes were everywhere and the children just couldn’t believe the sight before them. Until this trip I’d never realised that a shoebox full of toiletries, gloves, toys and sweets could make such a difference to the lives of so many. Simple luxuries that we take for granted were priceless gifts for these orphaned children. Not only were these children deprived of material possessions but also more poignantly, they’d been starved of love and attention. It was here that five teenage girls clung to me as they sought my attention, interest and love. They wanted to touch my hair, hug me, kiss me and show me pictures of everything they’d drawn. What they needed more than anything was encouragement from someone who believed in their potential to be somebody and see the hope in a desperate situation. Last year the charity Samaritan’s Purse International distributed over 4 million shoeboxes to children in Eastern Europe who have nothing. It’s a difficult concept for us to imagine. How can anyone really have no things? But for these children, a shoebox full of gifts was the only present these children received all year. In the district of Novi Sad there are hundreds of orphans and over 70,000 refugees. Many of them were forced from their homes during the 1990’s and today have little hope of returning. In 1999 the UN bombed cities and towns across Serbia in an attempt to stop the violence in the Kosovan area. Today you can still see evidence of many homes, factories and bridges that were destroyed at the time. It’s claimed that around ninety five per cent of the
population are living below the poverty line and it’s easy to understand why. It’s very difficult for refugees to gain employment when they have no official status and are unwelcome. At another orphanage in downtown NoviSad over 600 children and adults lived. Many of the residents were either mentally and physically disabled or had severe learning disabilities. I carried five shoeboxes for boys in my arms and walked into a small classroom where around 20 children were sitting at desks. At first I was struck by their shaved heads, pale faces and subdued expressions. They all looked so sad. We were about to distribute the boxes when the class teacher, wearing a white coat gently told me "this is a class of girls". At that moment my heart wrenched and I mustered all the strength and will power in me to hold back the tears. I wanted to be strong for these children, give them some self worth, and love, but to see these small innocent children stripped of their identity as little girls, who should have been wearing pretty dresses with plaits in their hair broke my heart. The difference a shoebox made to their lives was incredible. Sombre faces turned into expressions of joy and unbelief as they unwrapped toys and sweets. It really was such a privilege to see so many children getting presents they’d never even dream of receiving. One of the most positive images I’ll remember from the orphanage was seeing a class of children learning how to sew and weave. The teachers wanted to celebrate the gifts and potential of the children by teaching them new skills, and that’s how it should be. Even though many of the children had either buried their parents or simply been abandoned, there was hope in a desperate and somewhat forgotten country. claire welford
It's almost Christmas time. Time to go shopping and buy your friends and family presents, even if you are not a practicing Christian. A time of Joy, drinking too much and eating a few too many leftovers. A time when children are spoilt rotten, get to many presents that five minutes later are discarded. No the feeling. It’s a shame it is not like this for every child in the world though isn't it. In some countries there are children with nothing, war stricken places where the children may be orphaned and seen horrific events. Christmas is not so full of fun and games for them. Children who have nothing, and for Christmas would be getting nothing. Well I say would because some kind people in the world have created a charity called Samaritan’s purse. So what is the Samaritans purse? Well the name originates from the story of the Good Samaritan. For those of you who do not know this story it is from the Bible. Basically a man is attacked and left to die on the street. A priest, another person and a Samaritan all pass him. Only one stops and takes care of him, the Samaritan. He pays for the mans shelter and thus is spending his own money on someone needy. The Samaritans purse organise an operation called operation Christmas child. This is a worldwide campaign. The Samaritans purse was set up in 1970 after its founder, Robert Pierce, visited children on the Korean island of Kojedo. People like you and me collect shoeboxes from shops (I'm sure you must have a few pilled up at home). The wrap them in Christmas paper to make them look nice and fill them with gifts for children, which are then delivered to one of seventy-five countries. Because children covers such a wide range of people there are categories for boxes. Obviously it starts with girls and boys. Then it is broken down into ages: 2-4, 5-9, 10-14. The charity always gets a lot of young girls boxes but few teenage or boys boxe
s, so if you are thinking about doing a box why not aim at one of these. So what can you put in the box? Well remember these have to be travelling to war stricken countries so no war toys like guns and soldiers. No glass, mirrors, aerosols, ect. You can however put in clothes, toys, sweets, toiletries, school items and a Christmas card from you and your family. You can easily find some bargains from charity shops and markets that are cheap and cheerful. Finished your box? Well now you need to pay for sending it. It costs £2 a box to pay for fuel for the planes sending them. This is a big deterrent for people but its for a good cause and is the equivalent to two goes on the lottery. Now you can deliver your box to the nearest drop in centre. Don't know where it is? Well the likely places you will find are churches and schools. My school organised my family’s boxes. This year my family made seven boxes. My school took them off us and will give them to the charity. Also tutorial groups made individual ones (mine did three), which the teachers paid for. So the next time you are in the shops remember to look out for some cheap presents. There is a deadline. My school was today (16th November) although other places may be different. If you have missed it this year you can still start looking out for next year. The web address if you want more info is: http://www.samaritanspurse.org Christmas is a time for joy, help share that joy for those less lucky, Sara
Operation Christmas Child is a unique project organised by the Samaritan’s Purse and its aim is to give children who live in war torn countries or countries which have experienced a national natural disaster such as famine, flood, poverty, illness or neglect the opportunity to receive a few small gifts; these children might have previously lost everything – their home, family and all of their possessions. It also sends a message of hope to these children, by receiving a gift from a stranger in a country thousand of miles away the children will know they are not forgotten, not just numbers, that someone somewhere does care. Individuals like you and me, families, church groups, schools, youth groups and other organisations participate by filling shoe boxes with small inexpensive gifts to be given to children in countries such as the Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia and Georgia; in the year 2000 over 4.1 million shoe boxes were collected worldwide and distributed to children in more than 75 countries. No matter what has happened in these countries, whether it is man-made or natural disasters it is the children who suffer and they are innocent victims of whatever the crisis may be. To take part in Operation Christmas Child you need to get an empty shoe box, the ideal size is from a medium adult size shoe (about 12 inches by 7 inches by 5 inches). Samaritans Purse ask that you try to get a shoe box around this size to ensure all the children receive approximately the same amount of gifts. Cover the shoe box in Christmas wrapping paper and make sure you wrap the lid of the box separately. Decide whether you want your gift to go to a boy or girl, there are three age categories: 2 to 4 year old, 5 to 9 year old and 10 to 14 year old. Fill the shoe box with a variety of gifts making sure you do not include any war related items (war comics or books, toy guns, knives, toy soldiers, etc.), marbles, toys wh
ich need batteries, aerosols, glass containers, mirrors, fragile objects, perfume, bubble bath, shampoo, food, medicines of any kind or clothes (except clothing on the list I will give below). Suggested gifts for the shoe box: Small toys and games e.g. car, plane, model animal, puzzle, playing cards, dominos, small ball, skipping rope, teddy, cuddly toy, doll, toy jewellery, yoyo. Stationary e.g. pencils, coloured pencils, crayons, pens, ruler, eraser, exercise book, colouring book, picture book (books with words in are not much good because most of the children do not understand English). Toiletries e.g. face cloth, sponge, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, brush, toilet bag, make-up, make-up bag. Clothing e.g. baseball cap, hat, scarf, gloves. Packet of boiled sweets. A Christmas card, some people also include a short letter. Shoe boxes for boys of all ages are always in short supply, also gifts for teenage girls (boxes for teenage girls can also include some fashion items and inexpensive jewellery). You are also asked to include a cheque for £2 to help cover transport and distribution cost, any surplus money is used for related projects in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. When you have filled your shoe box you need to put a lable on saying whether it is for a boy or girl and for what age group; keep the lid on the box with an elastic band. I have no idea who received my shoe box last Christmas, I will never meet that child and all I know is it went to a boy between 10 and 14 years old who lives in Kosova however I did take a few minutes out of the hustle and bustle of Christmas day to think about him and hope he enjoyed the gifts I put in his shoe box. Including the £2 cheque towards transport and distribution the entire contents of the shoe box I filled last year only amounted to approximately £8, not a lot to help bring a little hope into the life o
f a child a lot less fortunate than my children. The Samaritans Purse, which organises Operation Christmas Child, is a Christian Charity who distribute to children regardless of their nationality, political beliefs or religious background. You do not have to be a Christian to take part in this project, if you believe in gift giving at Christmas for whatever reason you can participate in this operation. If you would like to be involved in this years Operation Christmas Child you can get a leaflet giving further information and collection points in your area by telephoning the helpline on 0870 0112001 it is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week or visit their website at: www.samaritanspurs.org the closing date for handing in your shoe box at a distribution point is 12th November this year.