WITH the festive season fast approaching, it’s time to pack those gift boxes ready for Operation Christmas Child.

It’s time to find a shoebox, cover it in wrapping paper and fill it with small gifts to bring happiness to a child in a less fortunate country so that they can enjoy the spirit of Christmas too.

The operation is run by the Samaritan Purse charity, who are a Christian organisation which provide water, sanitation, sustainable livelihood and emergency relief to people around the world.

Last year thousands of people took part in the Samaritan’s Purse campaign which aims to help children in poorer countries receive presents. In 2018, people packed and sent 511,200 shoebox gifts to children in 11 countries.This year even more are expected.

Co-ordinator of the Wiltshire operation, Steve Lloyd, said: “We’re collecting boxes from all over this year so we’re anticipating a lot more than last year. I think we’re expecting around 25,000 gift boxes which is a huge amount, that will then be taken to the warehouses for distribution.

“We have a local team ready and the warehouse is in Westbury. Operation Christmas Child helps some countries that are very poor so it’s a big operation to run.”

“Lots of people don’t read the information about what they should and shouldn’t include so we want to make sure that people are aware so their items can be put in as gifts.”

Volunteers run the collection and support the distribution. The national collection week, when drop-off locations will take shoeboxes, is November 11-18.

Operation Christmas Child is for children aged between 2-14 and people can specify on the label on the box the gender and age range they would like it to go to.

A donation of £5 per shoebox is suggested. When you make a donation a barcode is given out so the giver can find out the destination of their shoebox.

What can and can’t go in your shoebox? Check on changes from last year

There are lots of gift ideas that could go in the box which children would enjoy. Samaritans Purse recommend that people people put in a ‘wow’ item, so a toy that a child will enjoy. Some ideas include a stuffed animal, deflated football and pump, toy truck, doll, and musical instruments.

Previously sweets and toothpaste were allowed, but stricter import regulations mean they can no longer be included. 

What can go in the box?
Toys such as dolls, stuffed toys or small puzzles, School supplies like pens, crayons or notebooks, hygiene items such as toothbrush, wrapped soap or flannel, clothing like hair accessories, gloves or scarf. 

What can’t go in the box? 
Used or damaged items including clothing, war related items such as toy guns, play soldiers or knives, seeds, aerosols, lotions or liquids of any type including bubbles, medicines, hand-made or knitted stuffed toys, suits of playing cards, anything of a political, racial or religious nature, sharp objects, glass containers or fragile items, and books with mainly words as not all children read English.

Where to drop off shoeboxes this year

Operation Christmas Child will be opening the week of November 11 till 18 for the national collection week. Boxes can be dropped in Wiltshire at:

Westbury: Haine and Smith Opticians, High St; Warminster: Haine and Smith Opticians, Market Place and the Community Hub, off Station Rd; Trowbridge: The Farmhouse Inn on Frome Rd, Haine and Smith Opticians, The Shires, Town and Country Estates, Fore St; Bradford on Avon: The Hub, Church St; Devizes: Haine and Smith Opticians, The Brittox; Calne: Haine and Smith Opticians, Phelps Parade; Melksham: Town Council offices, Haine and Smith Opticians, High St and Specsavers on Bank St; Corsham: Print Stationery, Pickwick Rd; Chippenham: Haine and Smith Opticians, Emery Gate. 

For more information go to: https://www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/