In a hospital in rural, northeast Honduras, seven-year-olds Araon and Josue will soon be receiving shoebox gifts for Christmas. Judith Blumhofer, MD, has worked at Hospital Loma de Luz for two years now and is finally implementing her plan to deliver 40 shoeboxes full of gifts to the children in her pediatric ward this Christmas.
With help from her mother, professor of history Edith Blumhofer, the younger Blumhofer has organized a gift drive. Senior Teddy Stocking is heading it up by going to classrooms to encourage students to donate. He will help package and ship the collected goods come Nov. 25, the deadline for all Christmas gifts.
Stocking said, “These children … spend the majority of time in the clinic without their parents and usually suffering some series disease. They don’t really have anything, and they don’t really have a lot of people who are caring about them, so the idea of Wheaton College putting together Christmas gifts for them … I thought it would send a message to them that we were thinking about them, and I think it could go a long way to helping them.”
“A shoebox gift is kind of a common charity item now. You take a shoebox and fill it with various items. In regards to what we’re doing, we’ve partnered with a children’s clinic in Honduras … to provide them with Christmas presents,” Stocking informed.
Crayons and coloring books, dolls and balls, “cute t-shirts,” socks and toothbrushes are all good items to either donate to the overall drive or to put in a box. However, liquids such as bubbles and items portraying violence are prohibited. Edible food, chocolate, and other meltable items are not allowed, either.
Blumhofer clarified that crayons do not melt unless they are directly exposed to sunlight for extended amounts of time, so they are safe to send. She said she was “horrified” to find out that the children she cares for may not have crayons at home. “(Crayons are) part of childhood,” Blumhofer said, laughing. “A lot of kids go to the doctor’s office and get a sticker. Kids who come to my office get a box of crayons, and they love it.”
Blumhofer took the idea for a shoebox drive from a yearly philanthropic project of the organization Samaritan’s Purse. Like their project, Operation Christmas Child, the boxes will be designated by age group and gender. She said the 40 boxes should be enough for all the children staying in the hospital during the weeks of Christmas and the New Year as well as any adolescents who are admitted during that time.
Why not send money instead? Since _hospital name_ is in a rural area one and a half hours from the city, buying goods in Honduras would be a difficult task. The toys found in Honduras are also lower quality and higher priced, and as Blumhofer noted, “You don’t really want to give them a gift that’s going to break in the first ten minutes.”
Furthermore, Blumhofer believed that tangible gifts are more personal in that they reflect the tastes of the sender. In that vein, she suggested sending a letter to the children with a picture of the people who made the box. The letter could be written in English so that the students at the bilingual school on site could practice their English skills. Volunteers could also translate the letters into Spanish if need be.
Blumhofer said, “One of these things that our kids get so excited about is this whole idea of getting mail … I can guarantee you, they will run around with that picture and show it to everybody and hang it up on their bed. (It’s) this idea of somebody far away sending them a present.”