Operation Christmas Child: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is a project of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian international relief organisation. Our mission is to provide local partners around the world with shoeboxes filled with small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies as a means of reaching out to children in their own communities with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We ship these simple gifts outside the United Kingdom to children affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease.

Who started Operation Christmas Child?

The programme was started in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Dave and Jill Cooke. Three years after this beginning, the Wales-based shoebox gift project merged in a partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, allowing us to share 20 years of expertise in relief and aid work with the project, and expand the reach of the shoebox gifts to more than 28,000 children that year. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 209 million children in over 170 countries.

What size shoebox should I use?

You are welcome to use any empty shoebox but we find medium sized boxes are ideal. The dimensions of our preprinted shoeboxes are 18cm x 10.5cm x 28.5cm as a rough guide. Larger boxes are accepted but can be more costly to send as fewer boxes fit into a shipping carton. Keeping shoeboxes to within a similar size helps us with practical aspects of transporting and distributing them. It also allows children to receive similar sized gifts.

Many high street shoe shops will be happy to give empty shoeboxes to Operation Christmas Child donors - subject to availability. Medium sized gift boxes or Christmas Eve boxes can also work well.

What items can I put in a box?

The list of items that can be put in a box are listed here, as well as items which cannot be put in a box. If there is an item you are unsure about, remember that we check all shoeboxes and remove unsuitable items. However, it would still be used for the good of the charity. Your donation would not be wasted.

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Can I find out where my shoebox went?

YES but only if you make your donation online. Simply download and print out the barcode provided once you’ve completed your donation, then place it inside your shoebox. Once we’ve processed your shoebox and confirmed its destination country, we will let you know by the end of January.

Can I write one cheque to cover all my boxes?

YES you can place this inside one of the shoeboxes or post it to our Head Office, Victoria House, Buckhurst Hill IG9 5EX. Cheques should be made payable to Samaritan’s Purse. If donors write one cheque, individuals will not need to place an envelope in their box unless they want to receive an e-mail ‘thank you’ report after the campaign. In this case, donors should make a note on the envelope that the cheque has been sent separately.

Does a child have to be a Christian or convert to Christianity to receive a shoebox gift?

Each child receives a shoebox gift as an unconditional gift of love, based on need, regardless of their background or religion. Shoeboxes are not given out in exchange for conversion to Christianity nor with any other obligations attached.

Does a child have to attend The Greatest Journey before they receive a shoebox gift?

No, The Greatest Journey is a follow up course that may be offered after a child has received a shoebox gift. Not every child who receives a shoebox has the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey – we estimate that 75% of the children given a shoebox are eligible to participate. The Greatest Journey is offered free of charge, without obligation and only with the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.

Some countries where shoeboxes are distributed have strict regulations on the distribution of evangelical literature, thus keeping us from offering The Greatest Journey in such countries. There are also children who are at a non-literate age (2-4 yrs) or who are “oral learners” that will not participate.

The Greatest Journey curriculum is offered in countries where there is leadership capacity, open environments and a willingness to participate. Currently, Samaritan’s Purse does not have the necessary funding to offer the curriculum to every eligible child. We are in the process of building the operational capacity for this as well but it is not and will not be a requirement for a child to attend before they receive a shoebox gift.

Who is behind Operation Christmas Child?

Operation Christmas Child is an initiative of Samaritan’s Purse UK, a Christian relief and development charity working amongst communities in need across Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Find out more about us here.

Do you open my box before it gets to the child?

Yes. All boxes need to be checked by a volunteer at one of our warehouses in order to ensure the contents are appropriate and suitable for customs purposes in the receiving country. We then seal the boxes, which are next opened by the receiving child. Occasionally we need to remove an item that is not suitable for sending. Find out what happens to these.

How do you use the project donation for each shoebox?

For more information on how the suggested donation is used click here.

Do you put Christian literature into the shoeboxes before they are shipped?

No. We have never put Christian literature into shoeboxes before they are shipped, nor do we ever intend to do so. Where appropriate, the local church or Christian partner distributing the shoeboxes may offer a free copy of a booklet of Bible stories, The Greatest Gift. No-one is obliged to take this booklet. It is given to a child with their shoebox, not inside it; the only person opening shoeboxes after UK warehouse checks are completed is the child.

Shoebox Online Frequently Asked Questions

The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to show God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Since 1990, more than 186 million children in over 160 countries have experienced God's love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child.

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