The early childhood studies program underestimated the amount of interest in a Christmas initiative recently. Many University of Guelph-Humber students followed instructions to go to the early childhood resource center to pick up a festive red and green shoebox to fill for charity. But the department in charge ran out of those boxes on day one.

Aren Sammy, the early childhood studies resource centre manager explains in fact, after just one day of receiving the first shipment, the resource centre had given out 75 boxes – all they had in stock.

The early childhood studies program partnered with Operation Christmas Child, a Canadian initiative affiliated with Samaritan’s Purse, to provide Christmas gifts to kids living in developing countries.

According to its website, Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization that “provides aid to hurting people-victims of war, disease, disaster, poverty, famine, and persecution.”

Sammy, who graduated from the early childhood studies program in 2018, brought the initiative to the school for the first time this year.

“We’re hoping that this partnership with the initiative continues over the years and Guelph-Humber can eventually become a huge contributor to Operation Christmas Child,”  says Sammy.

Filling a box, which is about the size of a Nike shoebox, could cost “less than $10 from someone’s pocket, which is maybe breakfast and a coffee in the morning but that made a child’s year.” Sammy explains donors pay a $10 charge to cover shipping.

She says donors often include hygiene products, school supplies and age-appropriate toys, like a puzzle or Teddy Bear.

“For them, those little items  mean the world,” says Sammy, “packing a shoebox is really special because it feels like you’re getting to know this child.”

Operation Christmas Child shoebox in ECS resource room

Packed shoebox in the early childhood studies resource centre. (Amanda Naccarato/GH360)

“Students love this community outreach,” says Elena Merenda, assistant program head for early childhood studies. Even if Christmas is not a part of their culture or religious practice, there is still a sense of giving that comes with Christmas time.

“We may not be able to change the world, but we can change the lives of children,” says Merenda.

Once a shoebox is filled with items for a child of a specific gender and age, the boxes are then sent to children who “need to feel loved and cared for,” Merenda says.

Merenda says she understands students are paying for tuition, which is why the size of the box can help students stay within a certain budget.

“Some people aren’t really as fortunate as you and if you could do something to help them feel a little better, like even volunteering, it’s not too much to ask for,” says Frances Valencia, a first-year business student.

“It gives children hope,” she says. “It shows them that there are people who care about them even if they don’t know about them personally.”

According to the Samartian’s Purse website, Operation Christmas Child has delivered shoeboxes to more than 157 million children in over 130 countries since its origin in 1993.

For more information about Operation Christmas Child, visit