This story was originally published on justgeneration.ca.
‘Tis the season. The season where the leaves have changed colour and fallen to the ground. The season where we get to complain about Christmas decorations in the stores before Halloween is over. (PWRDF is guilty of this as our Christmas Cards are ready for order- get yours today!). This is also the season where there is also a lot of work – and discussion – about shoeboxes.
A number of people, including clergy and bishops have approached PWRDF recently to seek input regarding Shoebox programs, through which North Americans shop for small gift items for children overseas, to be received at Christmas time. Others have tagged PWRDF in their social media posts about Shoeboxes. ‘Tis the season for Shoebox conversations. As part of that conversation, we wanted to share a bit about our approach to international development and give some suggestions on how parishes who want to engage in a Christmas giving program can do so in an affirming way that responds to the longer term hopes of our partners and community members.
In PWRDF’s justgeneration.ca “Youth Handbook” there is a section devoted to common challenges when people/youth groups/parishes take action in attempts to support International Development work. On page 68 it talks about the concerns that mailing shoeboxes full of North American purchased items to children in the developing world create. We acknowledge that there is very good motivation and intention from those who, in their homes or church basements, purchase items and package shoeboxes for sending overseas. It’s tangible. It feels good.
PWRDF works closely with over 50 partners in 28 countries around the world. Our programs respond to what partners and communities want to see in terms of support. It gives partners decision making opportunities that can affirm their agency, their longer term hopes for the future.
Here are some of the principles of PWRDF’s development work that we invite you to consider as you seek to share your generosity at Christmas:
- PWRDF participates in a model of international development that is community based. We support whole communities.
- PWRDF consults community members at length and respond to the needs and priorities they have brought forward.
- PWRDF responds to the needs of our partners in a way that is culturally appropriate. We raise funds in Canada and send them overseas to partners so that they can purchase locally sourced goods to meet the needs of their community. This practice promotes their local economy and can be more efficient than shipping items overseas. It also ensures that people can make their own decisions and have the kinds of foods and goods that they want and need.
- PWRDF operates from a place of relationship. We believe in accompanying partners and community members over the long term. When needs are expressed to us we work to meet those needs. Over time, we are able to monitor how our support has affected those in the community. Partners identify the most vulnerable in their communities. When those people are in a better position, the support goes to the next person/family that shows great need. Through relationship we are able to know who needs the most support. It is important to note that no one participating in a program supported by PWRDF is discriminated against or privileged because of their religion or creed.
We understand at a time like Christmas, youth groups, families, and parish communities want to do something to support people in the world who don’t have the abundance that many of us in Canada have. Here are some ideas on how to give in meaningful ways:
- Youth groups could learn about the National Youth Project http://www.justgeneration.ca/resources/national-youth-project/. They could participate in a water activity, learn about water in Indigenous communities, and/or fundraise to support water and waste water systems in the First Nations community of Pikangikum, Ontario.
- Families could choose an item from the Gifts for Mission Guide http://giving.anglican.ca/gifts-for-mission and purchase/donate that item to support a community in need.
- Churches could partner with local community service organizations to identify families in need. Staff and volunteers from local communities can ensure that participants in their programs identify and receive items that are needed and that would constitute a meaningful Christmas present
We hope that as we approach the season of great celebration that you can pray and reflect on how your gifts will bring joy to people in need.