Today I wanted to show you one of my family’s holiday traditions. I know it’s still a little early to be thinking about Christmas too much, but this is such a cool project!
It’s called Operation Christmas Child. It’s run by a Christian organization called Samaritan’s Purse, and its purpose is to bring Christmas to kids overseas who wouldn’t get to celebrate otherwise. Here’s what you do:
Find a standard size shoe box or plastic box with a lid and decide whether you’d like to pack your box for a boy or a girl, and what age group. Then stock up on some small gifts and candy. OCC suggests things like small toys (cars, balls, yo-yos, jump ropes, or dolls); school supplies; hygeine items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, washcloths and soap; hard candy, gum, tshirts and socks. Pretty much any small, new item that a kid would enjoy receiving for Christmas. In my experience, the average cost per box is about $20. Here’s what we bought:
My sister, Jenna, and I both decided to pack a box for a girl age 10-14. We chose journals, pens and pencils; silly bands, yo-yos, hairbrushes and hair ties; soap and washcloths, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste; socks, several kinds of hard candy, and Smarties. OCC asks that you don’t pack any used items, anything war-related, anything that might melt, any liquids, or anything breakable. When you go to buy gifts for your box, it’s sometimes hard to come up with ideas. Trust me though, once you get in the store and start looking around, you’ll have to remind yourself that not everything you want to buy will fit in the box!
Once you have your box and your supplies, you have to figure out how to make it all fit! For us this usually means packing and re-packing two or three times; Jenna says it’s fun because you get to play Tetris. It’s an awesome feeling to watch your box fill up and imagine the child who will receive it and how excited they’ll be!
When your box is packed, you’ve got to label it. Labels are available for download and print here. You also need to include a donation of at least $7 per box to help with shipping costs; you can either write a check and include it in an envelope on top of the items in your box, or you can donate online here. (The cool thing about donating online is that you will receive an email telling you where your box ended up – they go all over the world!) Close up your box, indicate the appropriate age group on your label and tape it to the top of your box, and secure the lid with a rubber band.
Go online here, type in your ZIP code, and they’ll give you the location of a box drop near you (alternatively, there is a 1-800 number you can call to find your nearest location). That’s it! From there your box will be checked and sent off to a child in another country, and along with their gifts they receive a Bible booklet in their own language. Many of these kids have never heard about God and never gotten to celebrate Christmas. It’s the best feeling, knowing that you’ve provided Christmas for a child, even if you don’t get to see it. That’s why I do it, because I love giving gifts. And when I stop to think about it, I have so much. It’s not hard for me to share with someone else.
If you’re interested in participating, it’s not too late! National Collection Week is November 15-22.