OK I did it, I know many think it is a cardinal sin to mention Christmas in September but when the gifts are going abroad in November I need to get organised. This weekend gone the girls and I sat down and made up 4 shoebox gifts for Operation Christmas Child. As a family we have been making these gifts up since JJ was a baby and I do enjoy collecting throughout the year and then putting the boxes together knowing they will bring real joy to a child in another country.
Having travelled with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) to Belarus in December 2012 I saw that joy first hand. Children that were quiet and reserved living in children's homes with little to their name came alive when they got to open their simple shoe box and find what gifts had been chosen especially for them.
This year will be a quieter year for me OCC wise as I have a lot of other charity projects on but I still hope to be involved with the collection at the kids school.
Making up our boxes
I was super pleased when I got out all the bits I have been squirrelling away this year to find that all I needed to purchase to make nice full boxes was toothpaste, boiled sweets, notepads and soap. So I spent the sum total of £7.35 to make the four boxes. Now obviously I've spent odd bits throughout the year but by buying smartly at sale times I've been able to get brand new cuddly toys for £1 each (The Entertainer), 4 pack of sponges for £1 (Asda), 25p pencil cases (Tesco), skipping ropes for 49p each (Sainsburys), 6 pack of toothbrushes £1 (Poundland) and so many more things. It really does make all the difference.
I've also collected quite a number of things that have not directly cost me anything - wrapped McDonald happy meal toys, marbles from a jarbola at a fete, party bag toys that were not needed, duplicate birthday gifts the kids were given, promotional items that came with magazines and goodie bag items from blogging events.
Here are the contents of one of our boxes, they are all pretty similar as I have a formula that I use for packing -
- Something to wear - hat, gloves, scarf, sunglasses
- Something sporty - skipping rope, ball, mini bat & ball
- Boiled sweets to enjoy
- Stationary - a pencil case with pencil, biros, pencil sharpener, eraser and either coloured pencils, crayons or felt tips
- Note pad and small colouring pad or printed sheets
- Cuddly toy
- Toothbrush & paste, soap and flannel or sponge and hair comb or brush
- Something pretty for the girls - jewellery, hairclips etc
- Something to play with/ make - bead sets, crafty set, toy cars, musical instrument, brain teaser toy, girls doll
- Photo of my kids with their finished boxes
- Christmas card for their whole family
- Note to show we have made our distribution cost donation of £3 per box online
Having helped sort quite a number of boxes over the years I realise I pack mine quite full but that is my choice and even if you could only put 6 or 8 items in a shoebox it will still be really appreciated.
The subtitle of this post was Creating Wow and I called it this because that is the sound you hear when you are in a room full of children opening their shoeboxes. It would be very easy to judge the shoebox gifts by our own privileged and western standards. I know that as much as I have tried to instill gratitude into my children they are still not great at it. If they were given a shoebox with a toothbrush and paste in they would probably turn their nose up. (I'm not proud of this but you know I like to be real with you) but from what I observed and learnt from veteran OCC staff it is very different for children in other countries. They are happy for what they receive, I did not hear one moan of 'but their box is bigger than mine', 'I want that one' or 'I don't like it'. All I heard was wow and wow and even more wow and if you watch the short video below you'll see what I mean. Listen for the wow, it will warm your heart.
Might you fancy making a shoebox gift up this year?
You can make one yourself (see my tutorial over here or another example of a box I made here ) or if you like the idea but you are short on time then you can use Shoebox world and choose your items and pay the price and then just leave it to someone else to pack it up and send it off on your behalf.
If you do make a box, don't forget to include an envelope with your £3 transportation donation or donate it online and this will create your tracking code so you can find out where your box is delivered to. Then drop it off at one of the thousands of collection points that are collecting between 1 - 18th November 2014.
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