Operation Christmas Child (OCC)

In 1980 we watched in horror as the results of the Ceausescu years were unfolded in the TV news. OCC was started by Dave and Jill Cooke of Wrexham in a response to these scenes, little did they know that 22 years later more than 100 million shoeboxes would have been wrapped, packed, and sent out to needy children all over the world. This is fantastic news – over 100 million happy children whose lives have been changed by receiving a gift of joy and love. As always the kind-hearted people of the Wirral made a significant contribution to the UK total by wrapping and filling 11,150 shoeboxes with gifts and love. Of these 7,818 went by container to Swaziland whilst the remaining 3,332 shoeboxes went by lorry to Romania. The national total for 2012 is currently 970,000 shoeboxes (this figure as of 4th Feb – but it is not the final total).

The theme for last year’s campaign was “From One Community to Another”. Wirral OCC volunteers are a community who work all year round to make and accumulate shoebox gifts. Groups meet regularly to “knit and natter”. Hats, scarves, gloves, bags, games and other gifts are made from scratch or by imaginative recycling of such unwanted items as CDs, video boxes and plastic milk bottle tops. We scour the shops for bargains and clear the shelves when we find them. We fill our spare rooms, attics and garages with accumulated goodies. In a great example of community effort, Woodchurch Methodist church worked with other churches in the estate; the Methodist churches in Tranmere, Moreton and Prenton; staff and residents at Wesley Grange and Harvest Court; the 5th Heswall Cubs; their own youth club; and local schools in Woodchurch to produce a staggering 1000 boxes. A real community effort which brought together young and old to enjoy each other’s company and learn together about the difference that a shoebox can make – not only to the child who receives it but also to the person who gives it.

On behalf of the children in Swaziland and Romania who have received boxes we would like to say thank you for making a difference to the life of a child. These children may be orphaned, diseased, homeless, traumatised by war, and /or living in dire poverty; they are the last, the least, and the lost. A shoebox filled with gifts can make an enormous difference to the child who receives it – each box brings joy and each box brings the love of the person who packed it. The shoebox itself will not solve the material problems that the child endures, but it brings hope to the child and to others in the community.

It may seem ridiculously early to think about Christmas, but now is the ideal time to start collecting items to fill a box. Look out for bargains and buy them when you see them. Aim to pick up one or two gifts each month and by October you will have accumulated enough to fill at least one box! If you need ideas or if you want to know more, please take a look at the OCC website (http://www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk/) or look at the OCC Facebook page or our own “Wirral OCC” Facebook page. You can also leave comments or questions on either page or contact our Area Coordinator, Margaret on 07708037969. We are always happy to answer questions and we have trained CRB-checked speakers who are more than happy to speak to groups, small or large, about OCC (it’s never too early). Please get in touch!

Patricia Hardman