Tuesday, December 10, 2013

OCC: An Attitude of Gratitude -- Part 2

As you saw in Part 1, Operation Christmas Child is one of many ways families use to foster gratitude during the holiday season.

After volunteering there for 2 years now, I thought I might share some tips from the OCC warehouse for those of you who enjoy packing shoeboxes every year. Obviously, these are not official rules. I just wouldn't have known about some of these things if I hadn't volunteered there and seen it with my own eyes, so I'm trying to be helpful by showing you how to mostly ensure your items can stay in the box you sent.   

Tip #1 - Consider buying for the forgotten age groups. The age group that gets the largest amount of shoeboxes is the 5-9 range and girls get way more boxes sent than boys. For every 1 or 2 crates we filled for the 2-4 age range or 10-14 age range, we filled about 3 boxes of 5-9. Keep these age groups in mind when you're shopping. It's especially fun if your child or grandchild is in one of those forgotten age groups and they can pick out something they might like.

Tip #2 - Use the OCC boxes instead of odd shaped boxes. Samaritan's Purse tries to be a good steward of the money you send in which means trying to get as many shoeboxes in one large box to send to another country. When the box sizes are funky it's like playing Tetris to get them to fit. At the very least it means more shipping costs because not as many can go in one box. However, I understand why some people send the plastic ones so the child can have some extra storage for personal items.

Tip #3 - Try not to overstuff the boxes. Things frequently fall out of overstuffed boxes. Overstuffed boxes are extremely difficult to tape and difficult to fit into the larger boxes that get sent overseas. Consider maybe doing an extra box or giving someone else some items for their box instead of overfilling the ones you have :)

Tip #4 - Please read the what not to include list carefully. If you've been doing the boxes for a while you may think you know what not to include, but they change it up every year based on things they see happen during shipping. There were rumors they are going to ban candy next year because it causes so much trouble. When we inspect the boxes, people still send liquids like shampoo and lotions as well as foods which won't make it past customs. Those items get taken out of the box and donated to local charities.   

Tip #5 - Try to be sensitive about the commercialized American toys you buy. A lot of well-meaning shoppers don't think outside the American context. When we inspected one box, we found some "Bubba" teeth in one of the boxes. That may be funny to us who have great access to dental care, but at best it would be a joke that is lost on someone from another country, at worst a cruel joke to someone whose family can't receive or afford dental care. You may not bat an eye at Ariel or Jasmine, but someone in another country might. In other countries, especially Islamic dominated countries where the burqua or head scarves are standard dress, families would be offended by a gift like that.      

Tip #6- Track your box for no extra charge. One of the best things OCC has been able to implement is box tracking. Initially, it cost extra to track your box, but now if you charge the $7 per box to a credit card online at the Samaritan's Purse website, you get a pdf with a tracking barcode to print off and attach to your box. I think the ability to track is another great reason to send a picture of your family, a note, and an address where you have the possibility to hear back from the child who receives it. What a host of opportunities this could open up for you and your children to recognize God's larger story!

Tip #7 - Use this as a Gospel opportunity for your children. Obviously, a large part of OCC is that we get an opportunity to give out of our abundance and use God's resources to spread His Word to others in another country. However, it's just as easy to focus on what is going on over there and not explain to our own children about how salvation in Christ is so central and what motivates us to send the present in the first place. Role play with your children and transport them to a place where their box could be shipped. Walk them through how the Gospel gives hope and strength during a child's emotional and physical struggles and how it works the same way here at home even if some of our struggles are different. Find the testimonies from box recipients on the OCC website that can help bring the Gospel right where your children or teenagers are at.            

Do you have any more tips or stories from your family's experience with Operation Christmas Child?