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.
The blogger MumInTheMadHouse has some suggestions for alternatives to OCC.