If you read this blog regularly, you know I love to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child! Collection day is about 2 months away! Time to get busy!
I like this program because it brings HOPE. Hope to kids and parents who have little of it. Whether it is in Soweto in South Africa, on a small island in the Philippines, an isolated village Bolivia or in the former Soviet Union–even in refugee camps, children are reached by this program.
Q: But, I read they must pay–that’s not fair. A: Yes, the hosting program must pay a small fee to help with transportation. This is important. Any time a program seeks to do good without investment from the community it pretty much fails. Without rules, a distribution of gifts would be a free-for-all and many would be hurt emotionally and possibly even physically.
Q: But kids get left-out. A: There is a limit to how much ANY program can provide. Boxes must be requested so that host has the right number for the right ages. If a child just shows up, that is unfortunate, but rules are rules. There are many stories of ways local hosts try to help with this. Boxes cannot be divided up between children. Those who give the boxes are guaranteed that their box will go to ONE child. While Operation Christmas Child may add additional items to less-filled boxes, only forbidden items may be removed from a box.
Forbidden items: Candy; toothpaste; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans. Camouflage socks or underpants are ok, but not pants or shirts unless pink. If you look like a soldier when you wear it, do not include it.
Children aged 2–14 are involved. Shoe boxes are packed with a gender and an age range in mind. A child may only receive a box once so that everyone in the area has a chance to participate. While today in the USA many are moving to gender-neutrality with toys and some clothing, it is important to respect the local culture in these areas. Girls should receive clothing and toys traditionally seen as for “girls.” And boy should receive traditionally “boy” items. I can tell you from my own experience in Malawi, that everyone plays with whatever they have and clothes do get mixed around except for dresses. One exception to this is a soccer ball. Girls love to play ball games, too, whether soccer or just a made-up game. Pick a girly color so the boys won’t want it.
Boy or Girl ages 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14
Sample box for a boy 5-9 years old. The shoes are the “wow” item for this box and the toys are little, but I did a Spiderman theme. Not shown: Soap, toothbrush, comb, composition book (look for the ones with flexible covers). A pencil bag (left) holds plenty of pencils, pens and a small pencil sharpener.
NEW FOR 2017
NO CANDY and
These changes are due to the maze of customs/import regulations in all the different countries.
And, the suggested donation, to help with shipping costs, is now $9.00 per box. It is suggested–not required. If you pay this online and print the label, you will get an email telling where your box(es) went. Or you can simply put the money in the top of the box (yes, one check can be used for all of your boxes).
What NOT to pack
No matter what others may say, from my experience abroad in Malawi and visiting neighboring countries as well as my time in Ukraine, these are the things I say DON’T PACK:
- Wet Wipes
- Deodorant (Yes, it’s on the official list–I have no clue why. No one outside the developed world even knows what it is. And, does your 7 year old use deodorant??)
- Tampons (Toxic shock syndrome from too few– discreetly pack washable, cotton pads if you want to help with menstrual hygiene. Be sure to include a cloth bag to carry them in, a few pairs of underpants and some Ziplock bags).
- Stuffed or plastic snakes Too many taboos. Same with Skull & Cross bones on ANY item. Just don’t.
- Provocative clothing for girls including more adult styles of underpants. These can help make a girl more sexually attractive. Sadly, girls are sold for money all over the place. Let’s try to help them have a childhood. Stick to traditional, full coverage underpants and plain thick tops. No cut-out shoulders, no shorts with writing on the butt, nothing like that.
- Boxer shorts. If they have an unsecured fly, sew on a snap. They will most likely be worn as shorts and not as underpants.
- Flip-flops. Have you ever walked in the rain on an uneven, unpaved surface in flip-flops? Twisted ankle, bleeding feet and the memory of a lifetime for me. The don’t last.
Remember to remove as many tags and as much packaging material as possible. They’ll just become trash and they add to the shipping weight. Most countries do not have organized trash collection. Those price tags will be blowing all around as will the plastic wrapper from the underwear.
Read more about what to pack and what not to pack HERE.
How to start packing?
Well, if you have children start with their closet and bedroom. Is there a shirt they’ve never worn? Half a pack of underwear they hated and that never even got washed? A stuffed animal that’s new and never loved? Grab a shoe box! Now look for a few “new” party favors or Hot Wheels or similar. Fill in the gaps with a new washcloth, toothbrush, hair brush, socks etc. Those receiving blankets or extra baby blankets–great for a 2-4 year old who must sleep with siblings under one blanket.
Sample box for a girl ages 2 to 4. Baby blanket, stuffed animal, dress, underpants, socks, pencils and pens, crayons, pencil bag, hair clips, Stuffed Cinderella [actually a key chain!], coloring book, jump rope, Bible picture book, big shopping bag to carry it home in, a bandana and hygiene items. I shop Clearance for all clothing and any shoes as well as many of the toys. Right after Easter is the best time to get stuffed animals. Tennis balls are popular small items and are very inexpensive when you buy a bag of them at Wal-Mart.
Read more about Operation Christmas Child on their website.
Note: Wal-Mart now carries 10 packs of plastic shoe boxes for under $8.00! Great deal!