More than 7 million needy children overseas will soon be holding in their hands a Christmas shoe box - which for many is the only gift they will receive this holiday.
Operation Christmas Child – the world's largest Christmas project – has helped collect the millions of shoeboxes filled by American kids with toys, pens, papers, necessity items and notes of encouragement to distribute to underprivileged children in 100 countries. In addition to kids, U.S. families, businesses, churches, schools and scout troops have also contributed to the Christmas shoe box effort.
"Millions of people have already made this a brighter Christmas for a hurting child overseas, but we welcome others to start a new holiday tradition and share the joy of Christmas with boys and girls around the world," said Franklin Graham, president and CEO of international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, in a statement.
Operation Christmas Child is an annual project of Samaritan's Purse.
The shoeboxes have already been inspected and prepared for overseas shipment in six major centers across the United States: Boone, N.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Minneapolis; Atlanta; Denver; and Orange County, Calif. After the preparation at the centers, the shoe boxes are loaded onto some of the world's largest cargo planes, trucks and sea containers for their journey overseas.
Once they reach their first destination, Samaritan's Purse teams and partners transport the boxes by truck, bus, train, helicopter, boat, foot, dog sled, mule and even camel to hand-deliver the gifts to the needy children.
More than 250,000 volunteers worldwide, including some 126,000 volunteers in the United States, have helped prepare the boxes for transport.
Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan's Purse, has delivered more than 60 million gift-filled shoe boxes to needy children in 120 countries based on the giving of people in 11 giving countries.
Besides Operation Christmas Child, other Christian groups have also offered believers a way to give a truly meaningful gift this season.
Humanitarian agencies such as World Vision and Operation Blessing have created an alternative gift catalog that allows Christians to spend from $20 to $20,000 to buy animals, care for AIDS victims, and build a house or deep water well for needy people in developing countries.
Meanwhile, Advent Conspiracy is an emerging international movement that calls on Christians to give simple gifts this Christmas and use the money they would have spent on expensive gifts to instead provide clean drinking water for impoverished communities in developing countries.
More than 1.1 billion people in the world lack access to clean drinking water, according to the World Health Organization. It would take only $10 billion to solve the world's water problems – a small figure compared to the tens of billions spent on Christmas giving in the United States alone.
Other groups that have alternative gift catalogs include the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and The Salvation Army.