Operation Christmas Child
Frequently Asked Questions
About Operation Christmas Child
What is Operation Christmas Child?
Operation Christmas Child is a project of the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Our mission is to provide local church 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 from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and several other “sending” countries to children in the developing world and countries affected by war, poverty, natural disaster, famine, and disease. Distributions also occur in Aboriginal and Inuit communities in North America.
Can I find out where is my shoebox sent?
Yes, with our online shoebox orders, you can! When you pack your online shoebox(es) with us, you can choose to follow your box. We will email you when we know which country your shoebox(es) will be sent to. The email will share about the impact that shoebox gifts are having on children, their country, and the spreading of the Gospel message. Destination countries are chosen and announced in late December.
Who started Operation Christmas Child?
The program 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 146 million children in more than 100 countries.
Why shoebox gifts?
Shoebox gifts are a way to demonstrate 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.
What happens after my shoebox gift is delivered?
Our local ministry partners distribute your shoeboxes to children in their communities. After receiving shoebox gifts, many boys and girls are invited to enroll in The Greatest Journey, our 12-lesson discipleship program. Through the program, our local ministry partners are able to establish long-term, caring relationships with children and families by sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Click here to learn more about the eternal impact of a shoebox.
Are gifts delivered by Christmas?
The shoebox gifts start shipping from our processing center by the middle of December. Most of the gifts are sent via ship. Some may not clear customs in receiving countries until spring. In addition, many countries that receive the gifts must transport the gifts to rural areas using very poor roads. Distributions typically occur from late January through spring each year, extending the joy of Christmas to children that receive them!
Can I sponsor the child who received my shoebox gift?
Operation Christmas Child is unable to facilitate this; however, if you are contacted by your recipient child, you may be able to build a relationship with them. Samaritan’s Purse does have a gift catalog with several items supporting young children. It takes $6 to provide a child the opportunity to participate in the 12-lesson discipleship program, which includes a certificate and a New Testament in their language.
Is this project forcing religion on the child who gets a gift?
Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. One of our core values is to never be manipulative. We work in and through local volunteers in each country that understand their context and are respectful to the people they serve. At the same time, we do seek to share the Gospel wherever we go, which can be challenging at times. In some regions, we are not permitted to distribute literature, but we are still grateful for the opportunity to bless the children with gift boxes carefully prepared by people who love children. Boys and girls do not have to do or say anything to receive their gifts.
Will Operation Christmas Child compete with other service projects our church or group does?
Operation Christmas Child collects shoebox gifts the third week in November. Most churches and groups pack shoeboxes in early November which allows time for other local and international service activities in December.
Packing Your Shoebox
Packing, Labeling, and Delivery
How do I pack my shoebox gift?
Everything you need to learn how to pack a shoebox gift can be found here. That includes what kind of box to use, what items can be included, how to learn the destination of your shoebox gift, and much more!
Where can I get a box to fill?
You can use any shoebox. Operation Christmas Child also has red-and-green boxes that are also available to order now.
What items are allowed in my shoebox gift?
You can find a list of suggested items and items not to include here.
Where do I get basic shoebox labels?
You can download basic boy and girl shoebox labels here.
What is the $10 suggested donation per box?
The $10 per gift is a suggested donation. This donation is critical for Operation Christmas Child to collect, process, and ship shoebox gifts to more than 100 countries. It also provides for ministry materials such as The Greatest Gift Gospel Booklet and The Ministry Partner Guide. We encourage those who are unable to include the $10 per box to consider asking a group in their church or a family member to sponsor this part of the shoebox gift. Learn more ￫
When is the deadline for sending my shoebox gift to you?
Hundreds of drop-off locations are open across the country during National Collection Week, the third week in November every year. This year, National Collection Week will be Nov. 15–21, 2021 but year-round you may send completed boxes to our Canadian headquarters:
Operation Christmas Child
Samaritan’s Purse Canada
20 Hopewell Way NE
Calgary, AB T3J 5H5
Do you redistribute items in the boxes if they are too full?
We understand and respect that you carefully choose the items you include in your shoebox gifts. Volunteers at our processing centers are trained to remove only items on the “do not include” list found on our website. When these items are removed, they are donated to local charities and still put to good use.
Where do the shoebox gifts go?
Countries vary from year to year. If you pack a box online at PackaBox.ca you can discover the destination of your shoebox.
Can I select where my shoebox gift is sent?
Our goal is to collect and distribute millions of shoebox gifts in over 100 countries this year. Because of the tremendous growth of Operation Christmas Child, the logistics involved in collecting, processing, and distributing this many boxes prevent us from designating specific boxes for certain countries or climates according to the contents. We can assure you, however, that whoever receives your box will need and appreciate your gift.
Can This Go in My Shoebox?
Are playing cards allowed?
Card games with animals, numbers or letters can be included in your shoebox gifts. However, poker cards or face cards (King, Queen, Jack, Ace) are not allowed, as the countries we ship to, have asked us not to send them as they cause challenges in their communities.
Can dice go in a shoebox gift?
No, with or without a game, dice are not appropriate. The countries we ship to have asked us not to send them, as they cause challenges in their communities.
How about little toys like spiders, bugs, snakes, etc.?
All of these items are allowed.
Can we include batteries?
Yes, batteries can be included in your shoebox gifts.
Can videos, CDs, and DVDs be included?
Yes, all of these may be included in your shoebox gifts. However, keep in mind that the children may not have a DVD player or CD player available.
Can we include paint sets or glue bottles?
No, both of these items are liquids and can’t be included in your shoebox gifts. However, dry paint sets (such as watercolors) or glue sticks are OK to pack!
Can we include a toolkit with nails, screws, screwdrivers, and hammers?
Yes! The only tools that can’t be included are saws or pocketknives.
Are scissors OK?
Yes! Scissors are OK to include in your shoebox gifts.
Can items with camouflage be included?
If the child can wear or use the items without looking like a soldier, they are OK to include in your shoebox gift. Pink or colored camouflage is safe as are pencils, wallets, or socks. However other camouflage items like hats, t-shirts, pants, shorts or backpacks (any camo colors) could make the child look like a soldier, so those items are not appropriate.
Are squirt guns allowed?
Squirt guns can be included as long as they do not look like real guns. Brightly colored squirt guns are great to pack in your shoebox gift.
Can glow sticks go in a shoebox gift?
Yes, glow sticks are OK to pack in your gift. If the tube breaks, the liquid does not spill out and can’t damage other items.
Can we include wet wipes?
Yes, wet wipes do not have enough liquid to spill out into the shoebox so they are OK to include in your gift.
Can rubber balls be included if they have liquid glitter inside?
No, these would be considered inappropriate because of the liquid.
What type of candy is allowed in shoebox gifts?
No type of candy is allowed in shoebox gifts, due to increasing customs regulations. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Is lip gloss OK to pack in a shoebox gift?
Lip gloss is a liquid and can’t be included. However, lip balm or lipstick can go!
Can I include toothpaste in my shoebox?
Toothpaste is not allowed in shoebox gifts, due to increasing customs regulations. Please email us at email@example.com if you have any questions.
Is play dough OK to pack in a shoebox gift?
Yes, play dough can be included in your shoebox gift. However, some children might think it is edible.
Can compact mirrors go in a shoebox gift?
Yes. Compact mirrors can be included because if the glass shatters, it will be contained.
Are matches allowed?
Matches are not allowed in shoebox gifts due to shipping regulations.
Follow Your Box
What is Follow Your Box?
Those who pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child online at PackaBox.ca can discover the country destinations of their gifts.
How do I follow my box?
By going online and packing a shoebox gift at PackaBox.ca you can find out the destination country of your shoebox gift. You will receive an email when we know which country your shoebox(es) will be sent to. The email will share about the impact that shoebox gifts are having on children, their country, and the spreading of the Gospel message.
Where should I take my packed shoebox gift?
We have drop-off locations all across Canada during National Collection Week, the third week in November each year. Find the location nearest to you here.
Do you accept shoebox gifts year-round or just in November?
We do accept shoebox gifts at our Canadian headquarters year-round. They can be dropped off or mailed to Samaritan’s Purse, 20 Hopewell Way NE, Calgary, AB, T3J 5H5. We also hear of many churches, families, and groups who collect items monthly. It’s good for each shoebox to contain at least one “wow” item, such as a doll or soccer ball, as well as other fun toys, hygiene items, and school supplies. If you make your own year-round packing list, be sure to include a mixture of these items, as well as one month for collecting the suggested $10 per box donation. Here is our suggestion of monthly items for those who would like to pack year-round:
- January – Hats, Gloves & Scarves
- February – Dental Hygiene Items
- March – Quality Crafts
- April – Stuffed Animals
- May – Hygiene items
- June – Toys
- July – Clothing Items
- August – School Supplies
- September – Games
- October – Letter & Photo
- November – $10 Donation
- December – Prayer
To learn more about year-round packing and other fun tips, click here.
Build a Shoebox Online at PackaBox.ca
What is Build a Shoebox Online?
You can still help share God’s love with children around the world even if you don’t have a way to shop for and pack an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift. With a few clicks of your mouse or swipes on your touchscreen, you can build a shoebox online. Make it your own by choosing from a list of gifts, and adding a personal letter and photo. We’ll pack your shoebox and send it for you, for a suggested donation of just $40. You can access PackaBox online here.
Can I follow my shoebox gift if I build it online?
Yes! Shoebox gifts can be built online here. We will email you when we know which country your shoebox(es) will be sent to. The email will share about the impact that shoebox gifts are having on children, their country, and the spreading of the Gospel message. Destination countries are chosen and announced in late December.
Evangelism & Discipleship
The Greatest Gift
What is The Greatest Gift?
This Gospel booklet available in more than 75 languages is given out with shoebox gifts around the world. With the Apostle John as narrator, the booklet shares 11 Scripture stories and invites children to follow Christ.
The Greatest Journey Around the World
What is The Greatest Journey?
The Greatest Journey is a discipleship experience offered by local churches to many of the children who receive shoebox gifts. The 12-lesson program introduces boys and girls to salvation through faith in Christ and encourages them to grow as faithful followers. This connects children to local churches who can, through discipling relationships, teach and nurture the children in faith.
How can I participate?
The Greatest Journey is an investment not only in children, but also in the teachers and the local churches that can learn, grow, and continue to serve Christ with the momentum that is gained through the program. It takes $6 to provide a child the opportunity to participate in The Greatest Journey and receive discipleship materials, including a certificate and New Testament in their language. You can support The Greatest Journey here.
Global Influence of Operation Christmas Child
Who delivers shoebox gifts?
Operation Christmas Child is a global program facilitated through hundreds of thousands of trained volunteers. Local believers in more than 100 countries deliver Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts, present the Gospel, and facilitate our follow-up discipleship program, The Greatest Journey.
With this approach, local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources with a solid biblical foundation to share the Gospel in their communities. We equip ministry partners—a local pastor or church leader—to be our volunteer representatives by providing thorough, detailed training for them to be able to facilitate a shoebox outreach event and present the Gospel.
Trained National Leadership Team members, ministry partners, and The Greatest Journey teachers are volunteer roles filled exclusively by these national Christians. To learn more about these roles, visit our Volunteer Network page.
How do shoebox gifts impact local economies?
The mission of Operation Christmas Child is to provide local churches who are our ministry partners around the world with shoebox gifts as a way to reach children in their communities. For many children, this is the first gift they will ever receive. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need.
In each shoebox receiving country, we partner with a volunteer National Leadership Team that consists of year-round volunteers from various church denominations. Together, they strategize how to reach children in their country with the Gospel. It is our desire to give one shoebox to a child in their lifetime, and this is the model used in our training. Local churches distribute shoebox gifts to children in different communities each year. Because of this strategy, the economic impact on a community is minimal which allows us to reach millions of new children every year with the Good News of Jesus Christ and disciple many, with millions now sharing their faith with their friends, family, and beyond.
According to Henry Manthanamba, Operation Christmas Child prayer coordinator in Malawi, “If shoebox gifts impacted our local economy negatively, the government would never allow them. They see it as a blessing to the children of Malawi.”
How do shoebox gifts impact the local church?
In more than 100 receiving countries, shoebox gifts are used by local Christians as a strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and the multiplication of believers and churches in their communities. More important than the items inside the shoebox, the gifts are an opportunity to share God’s love—and the Good News of Jesus Christ—with children in need. Local Christians who know the culture and language best are given effective resources in their own language and a solid Biblical foundation so that they can communicate the Gospel within their own communities through shoebox outreach events and The Greatest Journey discipleship program.
For example, in Fiji, a pastor hosted an Operation Christmas Child shoebox outreach event in a rural community that had no church. He then invited the children to attend The Greatest Journey follow-up discipleship program. As the students gathered for the discipleship lessons, their parents grew curious and began attending too. The village elder became a believer and offered his property as a place for the new church to meet. Today 80 people attend regularly, and five additional churches have been started in surrounding villages! This is one example of hundreds of churches planted annually as a result of Operation Christmas Child in regions where we work.
The evangelism and discipleship resources utilized by Operation Christmas Child were intentionally developed with input from local believers in 16 countries, from six continents, and are specifically focused on children.
In the seven countries where shoebox gifts are packed, Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for participants to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission. Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In this church-to-church ministry model, churches who pack shoebox gifts partner with local churches around the world as they share God’s love with children in need and provide follow-up discipleship through The Greatest Journey.
How are different cultures and local contexts incorporated into shoebox distribution events?
More than 75,000 pastors and church leaders share the Gospel every year at outreach events where shoebox gifts are delivered. The shoebox outreach events are planned and implemented by volunteers in the local church who know the culture and language best. Through our volunteer National Leadership Team, local believers are trained to present the Gospel in a child friendly way. We work with the volunteer National Leadership Team to develop an annual strategy for evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication of believers and churches in their communities.
Do children have to say or do anything to receive a shoebox gift?
Shoebox gifts are given to children regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or faith. We seek to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way through each shoebox gift. Children do not have to do or say anything to receive the gifts. We work in and through local Christians in each country who understand the context in their area. Simple gifts—packed with love in Jesus’ Name—deliver hope and joy to children all around the world, regardless of their faith or religious background.
How does a shoebox gift impact a child in need?
Operation Christmas Child is not intended as a solution for meeting physical needs, but rather a strategy for the local church to meet spiritual needs of children in their communities. The unexpected gift delights and sparks hope in the life of a child as they hear of Jesus’ love for them. Shoebox gifts are given freely in Jesus’ Name.
Serving with OCC
Processing Center Volunteer
What are the roles at a processing center?
Every volunteer in the processing center plays an important role in the ministry of Operation Christmas Child, ensuring the integrity and successful delivery of the gifts. Volunteers in the processing center form teams and perform all the tasks necessary to process the shoeboxes at one location. Teams are responsible for removing financial contributions from the shoeboxes, inspecting the gifts, sorting inappropriate items, working with filler items, separating boxes by age and gender, and boxing shoeboxes in designated cartons. Due to the fast-paced environment of the warehouse and changing needs, you may be asked to do different tasks. We appreciate your flexibility.
Are there employment opportunities?
Yes, visit seasonal employment opportunities on our website. We recruit staff to help coach volunteers in the processing center.
What are the dates of operation?
Processing centers are open late November to mid-December to prepare gifts for international shipping.
Can any age volunteer?
All volunteers must be at least 14 years of age, regardless of a student’s grade level. Due to the warehouse environment, we can’t allow exceptions to this age requirement. At least one chaperone for every five youth is required (youth volunteers include any volunteers between the ages of 14-17). The primary responsibility of a chaperone is to ensure the safety and appropriate behavior of your youth. For the safety of all volunteers in the warehouse, processing center staff reserve the right to ask any group not acting in accordance with safety procedures and outlined policies to leave the building at any time.
What if my child is too young to volunteer?
Children under the age of 14 are not able to volunteer in a processing center; however, tours are available throughout the season when families or groups with children under 14 or individuals who want to know more about the project can come to the processing center. The tours help people learn about the journey of a shoebox, what we do at the warehouse, and how they can pray for children receiving boxes. Tours of the Calgary processing center are available year-round, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the address of the processing center?
The address of the porcessing center is Samaritan’s Purse, 20 Hopewell Way NE, Calgary, AB.
What should I wear to the processing centers?
Our processing center is set up in a warehouse, so please make proper provisions to be comfortably and appropriately dressed for this environment. It is best to be prepared with closed-toe shoes appropriate for standing for long periods, and warm, layered, casual clothes as the temperature inside can vary. Breaks are available as needed.
Can I bring food for my group?
Yes, you can bring food for your group and use the break area in the processing center. You are welcome to take breaks as needed during your time with us. We provide coffeee, tea and light snacks, but if you are staying for multiple shifts, please bring your own lunch or dinner. All food and drinks must remain inside the break area. Please be advised that tobacco products are prohibited on the property.
What if the day I’d like to serve is full?
Please call or email us so we can add you to the waiting list. If spaces becomes open, we will contact you.
How can I serve with Operation Christmas Child in my area?
Dedicated volunteers work year-round to promote and pray for Operation Christmas Child. Starting in September, people can sign up to volunteer at processing centers as well. Check out our long-term and short-term volunteer opportunities pages. We also have a resource page full of ideas and materials that will help you, your family, church, business, or community center get involved in Operation Christmas Child.