Appeal goes out across Banburyshire for shoebox gifts for this year's Operation Christmas Child

Organisers of the international festive gift-giving scheme, Operation Christmas Child, has launched its 2020 appeal for shoeboxes of gifts for children in poverty overseas.

Students from North Oxfordshire Academy with teacher Alexandra Wilkinson who packed 77 shoeboxes last year
Students from North Oxfordshire Academy with teacher Alexandra Wilkinson who packed 77 shoeboxes last year

The coronavirus pandemic and the isolation it has caused for some youngsters makes this year's gift-giving even more meaningful.

Organiser Eunice Harradine said: "Many things we were looking forward to in 2020 have been cancelled, from the Olympics to school graduation celebrations, because of Covid-19.

"Children around the world, especially those living in poverty, have struggled with the isolation and not being with their friends. However, Christmas isn’t cancelled and together we can bring fresh joy and hope to children through shoe boxes of gifts sent via Operation Christmas Child."

Ms Harradine has been the project leader for the Banbury area since 2003 and s has urged people to be more generous than ever.

"In the midst of a global pandemic, the lives of children and families have been turned upside down and the need is greater than ever before. Children are scared and their families are scared. Now more than ever, boys and girls around the world need to experience hope and joy and a shoebox gift offers just that.

"I hope that even in these difficult times with Covid-19 we can match or even exceed last year’s number of 1,727 shoe boxes of gifts from the Banbury area.

"In this way children who live in challenging circumstances overseas will be able to experience the joy of receiving a box of gifts and know they are thought of and prayed for.”

In some countries, children cannot attend school unless they provide their own pens, pencils and writing books so these items can make a big difference to a child’s life. Things we take for granted such as toys, soap, toothbrushes, hats and gloves are luxuries to the children who receive the shoe boxes.

Leaflets on how to be involved are available now. They can either be downloaded or ordered online in multiples of 50 at www.operationchristmaschild.org.uk or by phoning 0870 011 2002. The website includes many more gift suggestions under the drop-down menu Pack A Shoebox.

All gift boxes need a donation of £5 to cover essential costs such as processing, shipping around the world and training local churches overseas to ensure that the shoeboxes are given out at safe and well-run events.

Filled shoeboxes should be taken to a drop-off location between Monday, November 9 - Monday, November 16. The Entertainer toy store in Banbury’s Castle Quay will again accept shoeboxes but because of Covid-19, The Peoples Church is unable to be a drop-off location this year.

Churches and other groups with 20 or more shoeboxes should arrange collection by emailing Ms Harradine at [email protected] or by phoning or messaging her on 07710 483902. She will also be pleased to help answer any questions about joining in this year’s appeal.

Ms Harradine said: “We don’t know in advance which country our shoeboxes will go to but all donors who contribute the £5 per shoebox online and include the barcode in their shoeboxes will receive an email in the New Year telling them which country theirs have gone to.”