Going into Ecuador last year with Operation Christmas Child, I wanted to make the most of the opportunity.
I knew that very few people will ever have the chance to actually hand-deliver the shoeboxes the pack to the children who need them most, so I prayed about how to deliver the strongest message back to you all.
So in my mind I decided to focus on what I know best: the money-saving aspect.
You see, in the past I’ve been guilty of packing my leftovers. You know what I mean: leftover school supplies, items from the dollar store, and toys from our gift box under the bed.
Not that these are bad things in and of themselves…it was more my attitude behind the packing.
So I relied on our guides who work with Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child to discover what goes into packing the perfect Operation Christmas Child Shoebox!
Amy’s Must-Haves for every OCC Shoebox:
* School Supplies
* Flip Flops
* Stretchy Gloves
* Some type of a bag
* Something snuggly
* Toothpaste & Toothbrush
She went on to differentiate some specifics for girls & boys:
Perfect Operation Child Shoebox for Girls:
* Hair Accessories
* Any ‘pretty things’ (especially colorful ones!)
Perfect Operation Child Shoebox for Boys:
* Flashlights (just remember extra batteries)
One of the other things that really amazed me were just how many teenagers were at our distributions. As you’d might expect, the majority of boxes are packed for 5-9 year olds. But all the volunteers we heard from who once received a box themselves actually received their box in their teens…and now they’re actually working with Operation Christmas Child in Ecuador!
Perfect Operation Child Shoebox for 10-14 Year Old Girls:
* Sewing Kits or supplies
* Craft Kits
* Jewelry Making
Perfect Operation Child Shoebox for 10-14 Year Old Boys:
* Ball & pump (soccer/football/basketball)
* Took Kit
* More Advanced School Supplies
By this point in our bus conversation, several other Operation Christmas Child staff members chimed in…and they all agreed on the one, single most important thing to include in your shoeboxes: a letter.
That’s right – across the board, everyone agreed that of everything in the boxes, the kids look forward to receiving a letter from the family that packed the box (and I saw that proved true at each and every one of our distributions!).
But not just a letter; make sure to include a picture and your address with your letter. The kids love seeing exactly who the family is who packed their box and if you include your address (or better yet, email address), volunteers may be able to snap a picture of your box with the child who receives it and send it back to you!
One other great tip from Amy when it comes to including a letter is to type a paragraph and then use Google Translate to translate that paragraph into 5 or 6 of the more prominent world languages (like Spanish, French, Creole, Chinese, etc). You never know where in the world your box will go, but by printing the letter on some cute stationary with multiple translations, you make it much more likely that the child will be able to understand what you wrote even if a translator isn’t present (Oh, and Amy also uploads a picture of herself within the letter so it’s all on one sheet).
If you’re wondering about the box itself, really any shoebox will do. However, I did notice a lot of plastic boxes being used on this trip. When I asked if they preferred the plastic over the regular shoebox, I found out another interesting packing fact:
1. OCC is appreciative of absolutely any box people are willing to pack
2. The higher quality plastic shoeboxes can be great because they can be re-used by the family
3. DO NOT use the 99 cent plastic shoeboxes because they frequently CRACK and then have to go to the shoebox hospital in Boone, NC (I’m not making that up, it actually exists!) and have its contents put into a new box, creating a new expense and unnecessarily taxing the resources of the ministry.
A couple other no-no’s when it comes to packing your perfect Operation Christmas Child Shoebox gift:
- #1 Contraband taken out of boxes: bubbles (also no shampoo, chocolate/food) – nothing liquid or glass
- Make sure to put candy in plastic bags
So what do you say? Won’t you help make a difference in the life of a child this Christmas by packing an OCC Shoebox? You can even pack a shoebox online!
Whatever you do, just make sure to get involved this year with this wonderful organization.