Why You Should Avoid Operation Christian Child

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

 

When I wrote this article in 2011, I would not have believed that years later, I’d update it with the information that the leader of this charity was a supporter of President Trump, and that they shared similar political goals. That’s not the only reason to avoid Operation Christian Child, but it’s one that is hard to dismiss. I’ve rewritten this post and added new information, including some alternatives to Operation Christian Child. If your child’s school is planning to collect shoeboxes this year, let them know who is behind this charity, and suggest some alternatives. 

When we lived in Germany one of the parents at Kindergarten sent out leaflets, urging the parents to fill a shoe box with toys, pencils, school supplies, hygiene articles. These ‘Operation Christian Child’ shoe boxes would be collected by an organisation called Samaritan’s Purse and sent to a child in a developing country.

Despite my reservations, egged on by the children who were desperate to do this as all their friends were, we filled a box and handed it in, along with €5 for distribution costs.

Why did I hesitate to join in? Well, it just didn’t make sense to me.  The organization collects boxes and boxes of cheap junk (and much of it is), ship it around the world and deliver it to children, some of whom are likely in the sweatshops that produce these items in the first place.

According to the website, there are 8 million shoe boxes distributed every year. 8m x  €5  means that Samaritans Purse collect €40m. Just to distribute the boxes. Does that not seem like an awful lot of money to ship stuff around the world? Imagine what a charity could do with €40m.

I looked up the Save The Children website, to find out how they use money donated by their supporters:

  • £5 a case of rehydration salts to help children recover from a bout of diarrhoea
  • £23  a hygiene kit, which includes soap, detergent and a bucket with a lid
  • £40 24 buckets to help families carry clean water
  • £200 a child-friendly space kit, which includes toys, building blocks, crayons, dolls, sports equipment, musical instruments
  • £430 a tent to provide temporary shelter for a family made homeless by an emergency.

An estimated 2 million children die every year from illnesses that could be prevented by a set of vaccines that cost £2.50. The same £2.50 that it costs to send a box around the world. Vaccines and health care, food and clean water,  schools… the list is long.

When I later googled Samaritans Purse, I found that on their US website they make no secret of their aims to convert children to Christianity. The page I linked to has since been removed.

Two churches and multiple Sunday schools have started as a result of 10 years of distributing shoe boxes on the island of Trinidad.

 

Akila and about 120 other children are using The Greatest Journey in Cotton Hill, a Rastafarian and Hindu area where many of the families perform animal sacrifices. The youth who live there usually don’t finish high school, and teenage pregnancies and drug and alcohol abuse are common. Wendy and the other teachers are hopeful that their kids will remember the Bible lessons they teach them and share the truths with their families at home.

Are they really implying that the reason these children are dropping out of school, getting pregnant and abusing drugs and alcohol is that they belong to a religion other than Christianity?

If I had seen this, then I would have refused to pack an Operation Christian Child shoebox. A little bit more digging led to more worrying information about this charity, which is when I wrote this article.

For years, there have been stories in the press about the charity and their aims. The leader of this charity is Franklin Graham, a Trump supporter, who has very troubling views on homosexuality. He advises parents not to allow gay children into their homes, and says that gay people will only get to heaven if they ‘repent their sins’.

There’s reason to fear what’s happening in America, too: “We’re in a sick world,” he said, “very sick.” Christians “have been targeted by the gay-lesbian groups, purposefully, to put them out of business,” he said, and “we are exposed to the gay lifestyle [through] television, music, school.” He believes that organizations like the Boy Scouts “have lost it,” he told me, because they have opened up their membership to LGBT kids and allow gay men to lead troops. “It’s not an organization that’s fit to exist.” He especially worries about the influence of gay troop leaders. “Gay couples cannot have children,” he said. “All they can do is recruit your child. … There’s going to be a lawsuit one day, where a child will be molested, and will have been taken advantage of … I hope the directors are going to be held accountable.”

I’m not especially religious, but I don’t see much in the way of Christian charity and love in the opinions of Graham. Suffer little children, come unto me … but not if you are Muslim or gay. In that case, you can just starve, or stay in your war-torn country.

If, like me, you object to your children being used as tools in an evangelical war, then there are excellent alternatives to Operation Christian Child.

Alternatives to Operation Christian Child

There are some local charities who distribute presents to needy families, such as the Rotary Club, so that might be an acceptable alternative for your school. You can find a list of suggestions here – https://humanism.org.uk/…/good-causes-and…/samaritans-purse/

Or consider if you could work with a charity that works directly in other countries, such as Irise International, who work in East Africa to help young girls stay in school. http://www.irise.org.uk

This is a good list of  10 Alternatives to Operation Christmas Child 

In the run-up to Christmas, consider making a couple of donations to your local Food Bank. A friend of mine suggested donating Advent Calendars last year, as many families lack the funds even for such modest treats.

Help women and children who have escaped an abusive home and are living in a shelter celebrate the festive season by donating to your local charity, such as Refuge or WomensAid.

The blogger MumInTheMadHouse has some suggestions for alternatives to OCC.

 

20 Comments on “Why You Should Avoid Operation Christian Child

  1. Indeed. We had their leaflet home from school a week or so ago. I explained to my daughter that we’d be doing something this Christmaas to make sure that a child who didn’t otherwise get presents, would. But not this. Schools should not be distributing these.

  2. Our school and nursery do this every year, and every year, I write and explain why I won’t participate, and could we support the developing world in a different way. I haven’t even had responses this year.

    • That is not good that they don’t even bother to reply to your letter. Very rude.

  3. I don’t know Mme. It all seems a bit self serving to me… I prefer to give directly to a charity who I know will make sure that the money is used responsibly.

    Plus I had a look at that site you link too, and I am a bit appalled. Maybe they do charity, but charity, imo, should be unconditional, this certainly isn’t.

  4. Excellent post and I couldn’t agree more!My children have all gone to church schools as their first school and they always get these leaflets, we don’t do it, instead we send a proper gift from Action Aid (which has no religious or political affiliation), we have sent fruit trees, seeds, tools and school equipment.

    • I love the thought of sending trees and tools, much more useful than plastic toys. Would be lovely do do both, but think that helping the children to grow up strong and healthy, and get a good education has to have priority.

  5. I couldn’t agree more Mme, and it is for exactly the reasons you stated that I don’t take part in these schemes either. Luckily my son’s school choose not to take part either any more.

  6. Thank you. You have echoed my feelings, here. There is so much that feels wrong about this and the trouble is that the children really want to partake because it sounds so nice to them to be sending a child some presents. But, you know what, Rosemary wanted to give some of her own toys, which is something we do now and then by taking toys to the local charity shops or giving them to toddler groups and so on. But you’re not allowed to give anything second-hand. The distribution of bibles within the boxes put me off the most, though.

    Thank you for pointing out some alternatives and I will be sure to put this forward to the head and PTA next year. It’s just a single parent who organises the boxes at our school and is not affiliated to the school or anything. At the very least supplying an alternative would be a good idea, though I’d personally be more comfortable if the boxes option were not made available through the school at all.

    • Thanks for your comment. There are many other ideas on this thread on Mumsnet if you are looking for alternatives.

  7. A brilliant post – and very timely in the hectic run up to Christmas. I think organisations like these are unethical and your post really says it all. I feel sorry for your children suffering peer pressure, but think you are right to stick to your principles now you know about the evangelical roots of the charity

  8. At Christmas we give to a local church group in our parish. We buy specific toys and clothing for less well off families. As a teacher in the local catholic primary school I am well aware of the children in our school who are most in need. It is all done very discreetly.I feel much happier knowing my giving goes directly to a child, there is no money skimmed off for anything else as all the workers are volunteers. I think more help on a local level is needed at Christmas.

  9. We had them coming round to our doors last week asking for bits to put in boxes to send . I think they got the point that I wouldnt be particpating in my rubbish Dutch. We will help on a more direct level. Or why not make shoe boxes for the people in your actual vicinty. I used to do this with my school as a kid and the people in the care home really appreciated a box of goodies.

    • Good point. I bet that there are lots of people in care homes who would welcome a visit from children bearing little treats.

  10. I think you make a lot of good points in your post. But I will be brave as a lone dissenting voice and say we’re doing one! I like the fact that it is a very tangible way of giving, one that is very easy for my kids to relate to. They bought one toy each with their pocket money (I bought the rest), and it doesn’t have to be ‘plastic tat’. We do give to other causes as well.

    In response to Bibles etc, as you say they are upfront about it, it is a Christian organisation and Christianity is an “evangelising” religion. Of course you don’t have to be a part of it if you don’t agree – I do think it’s wrong to be “pressured” into it through school or other groups.

    *ducks* 😉

    • I welcome dissenting voices, so don’t feel you have to duck or hide :)

      There are other ways of donating in a tangible way – Windmill Tales suggested a box for people in the local community.

      Or how about baking some lovely cookies and taking them to your local care home – that teaches the children so much about giving and the spirit of Christmas.

      Thanks for being brave and posting an opposing view, always welcome.

    • Just read it, thanks for linking up. Very good post and some interesting links.

    • Thanks for linking up.

      My issue is that these children who she converted had a religion. They were Rastafarian and Hindu, and the suggestion is that they were heathens who perform animal sacrifices, drop out of school, drink and do drugs.

      I also have a problem with the fact that they are open about their aims in US, where it is accepted and even celebrated. In UK, where parents are more critical, they pretend that they only distribute toys and games to needy children. That they do not evangelise.

      This is, in my opinion, misleading and dishonest.

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