Why we will not be participating in Operation Christmas Child 39

Every year at around this time, I receive a letter from the school asking for the boys to fill up a show box and give a donation of £2.50 in order to participate in operation Christmas Child.  We do not take part for a number of reasons:

      • Samaritan’s Purse who run the show box scheme are essentially christian missionary’s and I feel uncomfortable.  Their mission statement includes the words “seeks to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people suffering from war, poverty, disaster, disease, and famine, with the purpose of global missionary work attendant on humanitarian aid”.  For me charity and christianity do not have to go hand in hand.
      • Evangelical literature is placed in the boxes or handed out along side them.
      • A lot of what people send is tat from the pound shop which has been exported in the UK, only for us to send elsewhere.  Where is the common sense in that let along having to give a donation of £2.50 to help pay for transport of the box.

There are lots of alternatives avalable to people who are looking at donating this Christmas

      • Oxfam unwapped, which I advocated last year by simplifying your Christmas.  You can buy someone a flock of chickens or a camel, or textbooks or dinners for a third world school. For these and many other life-changing or life-saving gifts.
      • Save the Children. Where £3 pays for life-saving treatment for eight children with diarrhea.
      • Children in Need. Every penny from the money you raise or donate will go towards helping disadvantaged children and young people right here in the UK
      • Annual Blue Peter Appeal, which is something you can usually do as a family.
      • Send a cow. Recommended by the lovely Victoria Wallop from It’s a small world after all, who has recently returned from a nine month round the world trip with her children.

This is not a judgmental post, just one that I hope will make you think about how and why you give.

39 thoughts on “Why we will not be participating in Operation Christmas Child

  • kay

    Well, you’ve certainly made me think twice about it. I didn’t realise they included literature with it. I shan’t be doing the shoe box thing either. Thank you, that’s an informative, worthwhile post. x

  • Karen Jones

    We don’t participate in this for the same reason Jen. I do think a lot of people blindly follow these things without looking into them properly, thinking that they have “done their bit”.
    Good for you for highlighting this. I actively support charities if I can be certain of their motives and can see where my money is going.
    I worked for a big charity organisation in the past and was appalled at the waste of people’s money in “administration”. I resigned.
    My children are being brought up to donate their toys to charity shops all year round, they understand about the Royal British Legion and many other worthy charities.

  • Ruth Raymer

    I have just emailed Samaritans Purse asn asked to be sent a copy of whatever literature goes into the boxes. I am quite disturbed by this, having supported the appeal for a numnber of years now, in fact, I’m not disturbed, I find myself feeling rather angry about it.
    Thanks for the heads up – if I get a reply from them, I will let you know.

    • Mum in the Madhouse

      Tattie Weasle » Cool, I am off to read, this has only come to my attention as the boys are only young

  • Harriet

    After we talked about this the other day I came home and looked at ours. It’s not Samaritans Purse, it’s a local Scottish Borders thing (can’t remember what now, but with no religious affiliation I could detect).

    So, while I agree with you, I would just say, before everyone empties their shoeboxes, that it may just be a question of picking your charity.

    As for the issue of importing cheap tat from halfway round the world for it to be thrown away on Boxing day, well, that’s another story altogether, and not one I have an answer to.

  • lindsey

    I am a volunteer for operation christmas child. I fill shoeboxes at home and in november I check other shoeboxes at the local warehouse. No leaflets are added to the boxes, although I think they do send a stack in the packing crates. I am not religious but I see the scheme not as a way to force religion on others but as a way to directly give happiness to many children. Who cares if they get poundshop toys? It may the first toy they ever own! And it goes directly to the children. One box of presents, packed with love, per child.

    • Mum in the Madhouse

      lindsey » Hi Linsey, thanks for your comment and I am not condemning charity at all. I just feel that they should be given unconditionally, not accompanied by a leaflet, which with the UK boxes is given out with them rather than in them. A local volunteer who hands out the boxes is quoted ” Our motivation is not just to help people,” said a volunteer. “We want them to see the Savior.” Franklin Graham, who is the CEO of Samaritan’s Purse states that every shoebox … a gospel opportunity http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Newsletter/october_09/

      It is this that makes me feel uncomfortable.

  • claire

    Made me think, I dutifully did my bit and filled the box. I think next year I will be asking the school to support a different charity as its very multicultural school and I wonder if anyone has actually considered these issues…

  • Mirka Moore

    Thanks for this Jen, we were also asked, and I had kind of no idea what it’s all about. I am so pleased I read this from someone I know and can trust 😉 Mirka @Kahanka

  • Expat Mum

    I am not a religious person, but I want to say that just because these charities are Christian (or whatever other religion they might be) doesn’t mean they aren’t doing good work. You can’t just immediately jump to the conclusion that they are arm-wrestling the recipients into converting. There are many missionaries working in fairly harsh conditions who are only thinking of helping, not converting. Often the religious affiliation is because it might have started off as church relief, but it’s often so that they can gain charitable status and attract donors who get a tax write off for their contributions.
    Bear in mind also that some of these organizations are very experienced in what they do, therefore much more efficient (ie. wasting less of your money) and able to distribute items efficiently and quickly.
    Yes, you can buy people chickens, goats or whatever (as I have done in the past) but many of these organizations are also religious.
    PS. I know nothing about this particular charity, but I would warn against a knee-jerk reaction to every religious charity.

    • Mum in the Madhouse

      Expat Mum » This is not a knee jerk reaction, but a carefully considered response to being asked by a PR to publise Operation Christmas Child and then realising that it was the same charity that the boys school supported. I am not against Christians, in fact my Brother went on a mission for two years, so I do understand what Missionaries do. But when I looked further in to Frankin Graham (son of Billy Graham) who is CEO of Samaritans Purse, the company behind Operation Christmas Child and read some of his newsletters I know that I could not support this charity. Please read this and you might understand http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Newsletter/october_09/

  • Jo Beaufoix

    You know Jen I hadn’t even thought about what else might be added to the box. I think I’ll go with one of your other recommendations this year. Thanks lovely.

  • Cass@frugalfamily

    I’m in two minds about this, I am torn between disagreeing with it because I agree that the gifts should be given unconditionally without the apparent literature and the fact that these boxes obviously provide a lot of people with something nice that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Great post Jen x

  • queeneileen

    I have to say it disheartens me when people boycott something due to religion but yet are happy to celebrate that religions festival.

  • Expat Mum

    No, I do understand and am very familiar with the Graham family, although I didn’t know they were behind this. I meant people hearing that such and such an organization is religious without going into the facts themselves, might want to read more before immediately deciding that it’s not a good idea. I know yours wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction, but I feel strongly that everyone should do their homework before deciding against religious affiliations.
    Some organizations have very similar mission statements but that’s as far as they take it.

  • CoffeeCurls

    I saw a promotion for this the other day and thought I’d like to do it, but I was actually put off by the restrictions of what you are and aren’t allowed to include. Personally I think it’s wrong to say that everything has to be brand spanking new – my children have lots of things I’d love to have passed on to a child who could get lots of use from them.

    I hadn’t even realised it was used to push religious materials.

    Now I have 2 reasons not to do it!

  • Abby

    We’ve done Operation Christmas Child before as I felt it was a good way to get my children to think and to talk about other children who have less than them. We chose some thoughtful things to put in our boxes, a mixture of new things and things that the children chose from their own belongings to give away. I felt this was more effective than simply donating money. I am not myself religious, but as long as others don’t force it on me I am happy to coexist with others who do have religious beliefs. However, when I read your link this makes me feel far from comfortable. These are very vulnerable children and the very strong religious overtones bother me. Time for a re-think for us this year I’m afraid.

    The children’s school supports a homeless charity and they ask for sugar and tea donations which are used in hostels etc. I think perhaps this would be a better bet for getting them talking & thinking of others this year.

  • mummylimited

    My nieces asked us to do one of these this year and I just thought Mini Mck was too young and wouldn’t understand. I think there was something I thought was a bit silly about it too though. I have since read a couple of blogs with more info about Samaritans Purse and definitely won’t do it in the future.
    My brother is Chairman of the Governors at the girl’s school and I’m thinking of chatting to him about it. If the children each contributed a small amount then the school could give them some choice in what they’d like to do. Maybe give to SATC for vaccinations or buy a goat for a family abroad. I think that kind of thing is much more useful and enthical

  • Kirsty

    Very interesting and I think you’re spot on that it’s very important to research the charities that you give to and make sure you understand what they’re all about. I agree with the commenter above who suggests looking critically at each individual charity – I’m a big fan of Traidcraft, who have a Christian basis, but I’m happy with the way they operate. I’ve never really come across the scheme you’re talking about (perhaps because I was raised Catholic?) but it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea).

  • Emma

    I’m not Christian but am quite happy to donate a shoebox and the £2.50 to Samaritans Purse and do so every year. I have never filled the box with tat from the pound shop although I can understand why some people do as it can work out to be quite expensive. I also make sure that every year Chick receives a gift from Oxfam Unwrapped for Christmas so that she knows it’s a time to consider others too. We also buy something else from the range in lieu of Christmas cards!

  • Kelloggsville

    I agree there are many ways to help children. I find it a bit odd you suggest that operation Christmas child should not have a religious element. Lol. Christmas without Christ?!

    • Mum in the Madhouse

      Kelloggsville » I think I need to change that it is the evangelical Christian side that I take issue with

  • MmeLindor

    Great post.

    As Chris said, I wrote about this last week and am glad that more people are becoming aware of the issues surrounding Operation Christmas Child. Thanks Chris, for linking to my post.

    I did a fair bit of research before posting, it was not at all knee-jerk or a simple rejection of a religious project.

    My other issue with this project is that it is simply not economical. It costs $40m to transport these shoe boxes – imagine what a charity like Save the Children could do with that kind of money!

    The UK operation does not not put Christian literature in the boxes, but only because many British people would be put off by it. They do in the US, and if you read the US website, they put great emphasis on the converting to Christianity of the children. Indeed, they present the whole project as an opportunity to convert children.

    Now, I am off to see about sending a cow – how cool is that?

  • Pingback: Christmas Shoe Boxes – What is the Point? | saltandcaramel.com

  • Susan Mann

    I will not be donating to this either. I get the boys to pick purchase two toys they would like to give to children who don’t have many toys at Christmas and we donate them to the Salvation army. We give them to under privileged children in our area. I also give money to some other charities.

  • Pants With Names

    I think you do have to be quite careful about some of these charities. I agree with you about the distribution of evangelical literature alongside the boxes, which can be totally culturally inappropriate.

    When we were in Bosnia someone emailed me to say that their school was collecting for Bosnian nurseries and could I say what sort of things they had/needed. They then went on to say that the organisation putting it all together had told them not to add chocolate as this was understood to be culturally inappropriate for Bosnian children. Never heard such utter tosh in my life, the Bosnian kids ate choccie like there was no tomorrow. But it did make me wonder how much these organisations actually know about the people they think they are helping. I know there is a desire to help, but without being fully thought through the aid can actually be more destructive then good.

    Great post.

  • Living it Little

    I blogged about this last week, saying how fab it all was. Obviously I was unaware of the facts. We did one last year through my eldest daughter’s school and were just about to embark on another. Luckily, one of my Twitter followers alerted me to the criticisms that have been levelled at the shoebox scheme and Samaritan’s Purse. I took the post off my blog, explained as best I could to my 6 year old, and we’re now doing http://www.goodgifts.org. instead.

  • Midlife singlemum

    I love the idea of children who would otherwise not get, getting a box of gifts for Christmas. I don’t really know what conversion to Christianity means when applied to children. You can get them to sing and pray to Jesus but you don’t really commit to any religion until you are grown-up and decide on your own lifestyle (assuming you live in a religiously free society). These children will also be influenced by the society around them with whatever religion is common or non. Maybe I’m being naive, but I don’t see the harm. Being Christian doesn’t usually split up families as there are no dietry laws or strict laws about the Sabbath, etc…

  • Hairy Farmer Family

    Hmmm. I’m horrified and disappointed to read that people have been put off contributing a shoe box in future because they have read this post and belatedly made the connection between Christmas and Christ: the wording does really give a hint, no? I know very little about Operation Christmas Child/Samaritan’s Purse, and can’t defend their corner for them, but having taken part in the shoebox scheme this year, I took the time to read their website carefully. They seem clear that A) the gift is unconditional and B) no Christian literature is added to the box – and even if it were, it wouldn’t cause me any misgivings.

    A Christian education does not equal indoctrination into some peculiar cult – when did we start thinking this? Why do you ‘have to be careful’? What, precisely, do you think is going to happen? Wako?! And, importantly, I am curious to know if anyone uncomfortable with the gospel education element to this charity feel similarly worried about the probity of the UK’s 6,500+ CofE/Catholic faith schools, where children receive significantly more ‘evangelising’ than the odd piece of accompanying literature as the price of their education. Or is that ok because it’s the good old English shires and God functions differently there? If anyone tells me they are changing their mind over the dodgy OCC box because of the religious connotation, but aspires to send their child to the local high-performing faith school, I shall bust my girdle laughing at their hypocrisy.

    I am not a regular churchgoer, by any means, or an evangelical Christian worshipper, but I have many valued friends and acquaintances who are. I dislike the way in which ‘Christian’ ‘Missionary’ and ‘evangelical’ are subtly somehow equated with seedy, tub-thumping, happy-clappy, hidden-agenda-toting monomaniacs whom responsible carers should not entrust with the spiritual welfare of a poor, vulnerable child. It simply isn’t true, for the most part: these are good people. Kind people. People of integrity. Charity and Christianity may not need ‘to go hand in hand’, but without wishing to fall into sweeping generalisations, sometimes the only charities working and co-ordinating aid efforts on the ground in areas that desperately require help are Christian ones. They distribute literature as a part of what they do, but it is very far from all they do. I quietly suspect a little evangelical fervour might be what a body sometimes requires to keep on plodding through the sort of dismal life wreckage that is the lot of the average underprivileged child, without flagging altogether.

    Leaflet, smleaflet. I would far rather a child had a gift (tat or not, it is all that many will get) accompanied by the literature of the organisation that is probably already committed to feeding, clothing and housing them, than no gift at all. These children are vulnerable; they are not daft or gullible. If they are uplifted and inspired by the Christian values they hear about: fine. They seem pretty fair values to me. If they grow up thinking that Christianity sucks sweaty donkey balls, fine too: I know some very admirable humanists.

    I completely agree that the shoebox seems a spectacularly inefficient way to give. However, some high-profile charities don’t seem immune to the odd bit of inept fund management http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentebale, and mostly importantly, as Abby points out, it is an extremely hands-on way to introduce our own children to the concepts of charity, poverty, want, hunger, cold, deprivation, and misery, which is why I chose to take part.

    Besides, if I asked Harry to send a cow, he might try and actually give them one of ours.

    • Mum in the Madhouse

      Hairy Farmer Family » Thank you for the comment. I just wanted to respond to say it was not my intention to imply that being a christian, missionary or an evangelical christian was seedy in any way shape or form, especially as my brother was a missionary for two years. I was asked to promote operation Christmas child by a PR company and decided to look in to it further before deciding too. In the UK they do not put the leaflets in the boxes, but they are handed out with them and it was this newsletter that made my decision easy for me http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Newsletter/october_09/

      I agree with whole ethos of Christmas is Christian and I am not in any way trying to put people off giving, I am just pointing out why we will not be doing a shoe box this year or we will be looking for a different campaign as Harriet pointed ut they are not all run by Samaritans purse. In fact the local church does one that is handed out to under privileged children in our own local area.

Comments are closed.