As the Christmas season slowly approaches, the anticipation of all the joys that come with it is inevitable. The thoughts of upcoming tree decorating, gift wrapping, and winter break bring ease to our minds. It’s in the midst of our merriment that we may often forget those around the world who may not have the same luxury.

For the first time, the Early Childhood Studies program at Guelph-Humber has partnered up with Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that has developed a hands-on project called Operation Christmas Child. This project encourages Canadians to fill shoeboxes with toys, school supplies and hygiene items for them to be collected and shipped to children in underdeveloped countries.

This project is open to students in all programs besides ECS. Assistant Program Head of Early Childhood Studies Elena Merenda says, “during the Christmas holidays, there’s just that feeling of community and giving back which is important for everyone to share.”

According to its official website, Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to victims of poverty, natural disasters and famine. The creation of Operation Christmas Child began in 1990 by a couple in Wales and it has grown into the world’s largest Christmas program today. Also according to the website, in 2017, Canadians donated over 600,000 shoeboxes.

The boxes can be picked up from the Early Childhood Resource Centre. Rosie Rojas, a second-year ECS student who volunteers in the centre says that the reception has been very positive. “We’ve had many boxes signed out so far and many people are taking a maximum of four at a time,” says Rojas.

ECS is also sharing this opportunity to students who aren’t on campus daily. With a minimum $20 e-transfer, students “who are in Newfoundland and different parts of the world who want to take part but can’t physically come here, they can send us the money and we’ll do it for them,” says Merenda. “We actually have a few online students who have made this their Christmas gift, so instead of buying their co-workers a gift, they’re donating this box in their friends’ names.”

Information officer Tatjana Susa contributed to this project alongside three other individuals.  “My team and I want to impact this partnership in a positive aspect,” says Susa. “We want to ensure Operation Christmas Child knows we [University of Guelph-Humber] as an institution care deeply about those around us and love to participate in any way that will exercise our passion for helping others.”