Toys for ChildrenFor kids of all ages, making a list of toy requests for Santa is one of the most exciting times of the year. Yet for children living in the world’s poorest regions, there is no Santa, presents or toys. UNICEF estimates that across the world, nearly one billion children live in multidimensional poverty. That equates to 13% of the global population. During the holiday season, three organizations are working to make sure that impoverished children have toys to call their own.

Samaritan’s Purse

For more than 25 years now, the Samaritan’s Purse annual “Operation Christmas Child” has provided toys for children living in poverty. Franklin Graham, the president of this organization, began the tradition in 1993 by sending gifts to young kids experiencing the violence of war in Bosnia. Since then, the project has grown to spread gifts all across the world to more than 150 countries, including some of the poorest areas. Samaritan’s Purse asks donors to fill a shoebox with various gifts for either a boy or girl which then gets distributed to congregations located in these impoverished nations.The initiative has brought more than 178 million children toys throughout the years. In many cases, the gifts provided by Samaritan’s Purse will be the only toys these children receive in their childhoods. The work done by this organization embodies the true meaning of the holidays and acts as a Santa for the poor.

Play Well Africa

One of the most successful companies in the toy industry is Lego. Lego’s plastic colored bricks are educational and creative opportunities for children. Play Well Africa is dedicated to bringing these Lego pieces to the less fortunate living in Africa. Unlike other toys, which can break, stop working or require electricity, Lego’s offer a unique ability to allow children to play in any circumstances. Young Micah Slentz, a child himself, started Play Well Africa when he asked his father to buy his favorite toy, Lego bricks, and donate it to children in Africa. A simple kind gesture has grown into a massive project that receives both new and used Lego bricks and sends them to impoverished children in developing countries. With offices in both the United States and Australia, Play Well Africa is a multinational organization. Thousands of children in countries such as Uganda will build, create and have fun with Lego bricks, all thanks to a boy who wanted to share his favorite toy with the world.

The Toy Foundation

For decades now, the Toy Foundation has strived to create avenues to bring children of the world toys to play with. One of its most successful campaigns has been the “Toy Bank” which started back in 2003. The foundation relies on donations from top toy companies and in turn spreads these gifts to existing agencies located in impoverished countries. Donations come from all sorts of brands, including Hasbro, Lego and Mattel. Children surviving some of the worst living conditions receive brand new toys, an opportunity made possible by the Toy Foundation. Children with diseases, orphans and those in war-torn nations are the top priority for the Toy Bank, making the organization’s work imperative. Ensuring toys for children in the most vulnerable situations is the organization’s focus.

Toys for the Most Vulnerable Children

Toys can be a healthy outlet for children who live in some of the world’s poorest regions. Toys can provide both emotional support and stress relief. Whether it be a teddy bear to hug, a doll to dress up or Legos to build, the psychological benefits of playing with toys are something all children need. These organizations all help to make dreams come true for the young children who need toys the most.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Operation Christmas ChildFor most of the world, Christmas comes once a year. A day full of red bows and snow glistening in the December sun. Not so for Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit headquartered in North Carolina. For them, Christmas is not merely a holiday, but a lifestyle. Operation Christmas Child began as a mom and pop project in the United Kingdom. It quickly grew into a worldwide phenomenon under the umbrella of Samaritan’s Purse. Over 150 countries annually take part in the program. Every year volunteers fill shoeboxes with toys, basic care items and a message of hope for the eager hands of boys and girls living in underdeveloped countries.

Volunteers from around the world spend the months leading up to Christmas filling boxes to the brim. Schools, churches, community organizations and individuals all work to bring a glimmer of light to poverty-stricken countries. Last year, Samaritan’s Purse was able to collect 10.5 million shoeboxes to give to the world’s poor.

Operation Christmas Child in Madagascar

One country in particular that reaps from Operation Christmas Child’s generosity is Madagascar. Madagascar is an African island nearly 800 miles from the shoreline of Mozambique. It is home to exotic species, the deciduous baobab trees and unfortunately, overwhelming statistical poverty. According to The World Bank, 70.7% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2012. Three factors that play a role in the rise of poverty in Madagascar are political crises, climate shocks and a sharp increase in global food prices.

With all the compounding factors that exacerbate poverty, Madagascar is a perfect destination for Operation Christmas Child to focus its energy.

Students in Madagascar

It was the summer of 2017. Mary Patton Murphy, a rising high school junior, packed her bags for her first trip across the world. Murphy is one of around thirty students that was able to be a part of the competitive week-long student vision trip with Samaritan’s Purse in 2017.

For years, Murphy had packed shoeboxes in the months leading to Christmas and dropped them off during National Collection Week. One year, a child that received one of her boxes sent Murphy a letter thanking her. This personal experience made her fall deeply in love with the organization. Murphy’s trip to Madagascar allowed her to see the ins and outs of the organization.

“It is such a well-run process,” says Murphy, “[the organization] truly maximize[s] their resources.” Murphy witnessed this first-hand during her time spent in Madagascar. Volunteers visited two distribution centers a day where each shoebox is diligently cared for and searched to ensure the safety of the delivery.

Murphy illustrated the process, noting that it “is a long one.” She expounded adding that “the shoeboxes travel to a local collection center. Then they are consolidated into carton boxes and sent to a processing center to make sure there isn’t anything harmful in any of the shoeboxes like toothpaste because the kids will try to eat it. They might add to a box if it is low on supplies or toys. Then the shoeboxes are shipped across the world. Some of these kids have never received a present before.”

Wrapping Up

Volunteers of all ages are the driving forcing behind this operation from beginning to end. They all advocate to make a difference in the lives of impoverished children across the globe. For individuals who would like to advocate on behalf of these children, they should visit this website.

The leaves fade from various shades of red and yellow and the morning air turns crisp and cool. The collection of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child will soon be underway. Make an early start to the season of giving with a mere shoebox, a few toys and a heart for the world’s poor.

Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

Christian Organizations Making a DifferenceMany faith-based organizations are committed to enacting humanitarian work throughout the world. Following the example of Jesus Christ, Christians commit themselves to assisting the most vulnerable populations around the globe. Historically, Christians have helped people around the world who need humanitarian aid and are often forgotten by mainstream organizations. Here are three Christian organizations making a difference to know about.

Three Christian Organizations Making A Difference

  1. Compassion International: Established in 1952, Compassion International is a Christ-centered organization whose main objective is to assist vulnerable children in need. According to its website, this organization takes a “holistic approach to child development” by assisting impoverished children in a variety of areas, from spiritual to economic development. The organization does not view child development as an instantaneous solution but rather a long-term commitment that requires perseverance. Compassion International works with “local churches in 25 countries around the world” to complete its work. It also founded the Child Sponsor Program, allowing donors to sponsor a child for $38 a month. Even such a small donation makes a huge difference in a child’s life thanks to Compassion International. Children supported by the program “are up to 75% more likely to become leaders in their communities” and around 80% are “more likely to graduate college.” In 2019, the sponsorship program connected 2.1 million children with sponsors. This hands-on assistance gives children hope for a future beyond their current circumstances.
  2. Samaritan’s Purse: Inspired by Jesus’ parable about the good Samaritan, Samaritan’s Purse is committed to assisting the poor, sick and suffering around the world. The organization effects change through the broad range of ministry projects that it conducts. Specifically, through its International Crisis Response, Samaritan’s Purse assists people impacted by natural disasters. This program provides food kits and installs community filtration systems to people in need. Crucially, these filtration systems can impact up to 2,500 people, by purifying up to 10,000 gallons of water. The organization also equips these impacted communities with medical teams and transitional shelters. Individuals may work with Samaritan’s Purse through hands-on volunteering or by creating a fundraising campaign.
  3. Cure International: Founded in 1986 by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harrison, Cure International bases its organization on Jesus’ teaching that the last will be the first. The organization dedicates its work to healing children with disabilities, whose home countries often treat them as the “last.” Cure International established its first hospital in Kenya in 1996, and since then it has established a presence in 14 more countries around the world. These “hospitals have performed more than 213,800 procedures” to treat disorders, such as clubfoot and spina bifida. Anyone can contribute to support Cure International and its work by donating just $39 a month.

These three Christian organizations exemplify the Bible quote, “Faith without works is dead.” As such, these Christian organizations making a difference demonstrate the significant impact that comes from putting one’s faith into action.

Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

In October of last year, a coalition including Iraqi, Kurdish and Assyrian troops launched what they hoped would be a final assault to retake Mosul from the Islamic State. Nearly six months later, the battle continues to rage on. Over 200,000 people have been displaced because of this conflict. In northern Iraq, Samaritan’s Purse is working to provide food and healthcare. The Samaritan’s Purse Hospital in Iraq opened on Christmas day and has cared for more nearly 1,000 patients.

The Samaritan’s Purse Hospital in Iraq is located in the northern plains of Nineveh. It has an emergency room and two operating rooms to serve patients who might not survive a lengthy trip to the nearest medical center in Erbil.

As expected, many of the patients being treated are victims of trauma, both physical and psychological. What may surprise people is that most of the patients at the Samaritan’s Purse Hospital in Iraq are women or children. For over two years, Mosul has been under ISIS control. The Iraqis have witnessed their communities destroyed by fire and bombs set off by the extremists. They have witnessed the beheading of those that have tried to resist.

Time seems to be running out for ISIS in Iraq’s second-largest city, and their desperation is clear. As Iraqi forces close in on the remaining ISIS stronghold, the extremists have resorted to using chemical weapons on innocent civilians. Patients at the Samaritan’s Purse Hospital in Iraq and other medical facilities have presented symptoms consistent with chemical exposure. Victims of chemical attacks can suffer from eye irritation, coughing, blisters, and vomiting. WHO activated an emergency response plan to help aid in the treatment of these patients.

These extreme measures being used by ISIS suggest that defeat is imminent. However, even after ISIS has been defeated in Mosul, and the Samaritan’s Purse hospital in Iraq can be closed, a battle remains to be fought — one with new, potentially more difficult challenges than the current conflict. In the absence of a shared, unifying enemy, disparate factions could prevent the country from recovering properly. Without sufficient support and leadership, the victory would be incomplete.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

Samaritan's Purse
Samaritan’s Purse is an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization that seeks to provide relief for those in need around the world. The organization is named after the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. The organization Samaritan’s Purse’s goal is to aid all those who are hurting, particularly the most vulnerable and impoverished people in the world.

Samaritan’s Purse was founded by Bob Pierce who also founded the relief organization, World Vision. After visiting the poor children on the Korean island of Kojedo, Pierce felt compelled to aid those that he met. He founded Samaritan’s Purse in 1970 with the mission to “to meet emergency needs in crisis areas through existing evangelical mission agencies and national churches.” Later Pierce met a young man named Franklin Graham. Traveling with Pierce all around the globe, Graham underwent life-changing experiences as he witnessed the world’s most destitute. When Bob Pierce passed away in 1978, Graham became the president and chairman of the Board of Samaritan’s purse. For 30 years, Graham has led the organization, overseeing responses to natural disasters, famines, and wars.

Today, Samaritan’s purse operates in 100 nations around the world with a number of programs. One important program is providing international crisis response. When disaster strikes, the organization works with local partners to provide immediate food, medicine, and shelter to victims. Pre-position supplies in warehouses located around the world are always ready to be used. Disaster Assistance Response teams are also always ready to be deployed. The organization works within the United States with its U.S. Disaster Response project and Operation Heal our Patriots, a program designed to aid wounded military service members and their families.

Samaritan’s Purse also provides aid for children. The Children’s Heart Project works with hospitals to provide surgery to children in impoverished areas or those that lack medical expertise. The Greta Home and Academy is a home for orphaned and at-risk youth in Haiti where they can receive care and education.

The organization is also well known for its program Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child provides Christmas gifts to children in disaster or poverty stricken areas. Anybody can volunteer to purchase toys, hygiene products, school supplies and clothes. Volunteers are encouraged to include personal notes and think carefully about what a child might want to receive as a gift. Instructions are provided online on how to properly pack the gifts in a shoebox and how they can be labeled and delivered to distribution centers.The shoeboxes are then distributed to children around the world.

More recently, Samaritan’s Purse has begun a fundraising campaign called “Raise A Village.” The campaign is dedicated to improving the living conditions in the Niger Village of Guidan Gado. To aid the impoverished villagers, the organization is trying to raise $85,000 to provide livestock, farming tools and food production equipment.

No matter the project, Samaritan’s Purse’s ultimate mission remains simple: to give aid selflessly as the Good Samaritan in the Bible did. Today the organization continues to give aid to thousands of people. With the support of a dedicated staff, donors and volunteers, the organization continues to make a difference in world.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: Samaritan’s Purse