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The Shoe Box Appeal

Giving to those in need this Christmas

By Skye MacDonald


Photo via Central Baptist Church


Do you remember being a child in Primary School and being given a pamphlet with “The Shoe Box Appeal” labelled brightly on the front in Christmassy type? Turning the pamphlet over to find a checklist of things to buy for a person and age group of your choosing, to send away a box of gifts for someone in need?


For my family and I, collecting cardboard boxes over the year, deciding whether we were buying for a girl or a boy, then taking the checklist and going to Tesco, was a yearly pre-Christmas event. I remember the excitement as a child of finding the toys and necessities to put in the box - a hairbrush, some colouring pencils, some soap - wrapping them up in Christmas paper, and then taking them to a church or a school, where piles of shoeboxes were starting to form. Myself and my siblings would leave the box in the pile and turn to each other, imagining the journey the box would be taking, picturing the child at the other end who would be receiving the gifts.


My parents used the Shoe Box Appeal as a way to demonstrate just how fortunate we were, illustrating that the good things we had as a family could stretch out further for the good of others. At the time, filling the boxes and taking them to their drop off point contributed massively to our Christmas excitement, but they also highlighted the extent of global poverty, and the suffering which millions of children were facing each day.


The Shoe Box Appeal was founded in 1990 by David Cooke, under the Christian charity, Operation Christmas Child. David and his wife felt called to do something in response to the plight which orphans in Romania were facing at the end of the Cold War. The shoe boxes were aimed to be ‘transportable Christmas stockings’, filled with gifts, but also with letters of encouragement and hope.

In the first year of the shoeboxes, a significant 3,000 were put into a lorry and taken to Romania.

From thereon, the Shoe Box Appeal has continued, with the aim of tangibly showing God’s love to children worldwide. Operation Christmas Child now works through the charity, Samaritan’s purse- an international relief and development organisation, with the Shoe Box Appeal making up a significant part of their mission. In 2021, they hope to collect enough shoeboxes to reach another 9.7 million children.


From speaking to friends, it seems that the Shoe Box Appeal was something many of them took part in as children, too. However, it seems like it stopped there: that after they left primary school, the yearly practice was forgotten. While it may seem like a small thing, taking part in the Shoe Box Appeal can make a significant difference to a child’s life (I encourage you to watch the video on the Operation Christmas Child website for reference). Perhaps consider going back to your childhood self, getting a checklist, and going out to buy some gifts for a child across the world to send through Operation Christmas Child - or any other organisations which does something similar.

As students it’s easy to get caught up in our bubble of life, but putting our thoughts elsewhere to those desperately in need, may be just the best thing we can do this Christmas.