I’ve often thought, looking at pictures on missionary websites of simple thatched huts and woefully underfed children, that it would be so hard to be poor! Hard enough, I think, to stay warm against the winter chill; but for a loving parent, there must be an additional sadness when he or she, struggling to provide food and basic necessities, sees the toys and treats that a child takes for granted here in America. The longing must be especially poignant at Christmastime, when every mother and father would like to see a gleam of happiness in their child’s eyes as he opens his gifts.

You Can Help!

Now, you can help to bring Christmas cheer to children in areas of extreme poverty. The “Box of Joy” program, founded by Cross Catholic Outreach, packs hope and happiness for thousands of children in poor communities around the world. Here in the U.S., individuals and families (as well as parishes, schools, churches and groups) are all invited to pack gift boxes full of small toys, bar soaps, pencils, a toothbrush and toothpaste, hard candy, crayons and coloring books. Participants who fill their own “Boxes of Joy” are asked to include in each box a check for $9, which covers the shipping and helps to support charitable work where the child lives. Before the boxes are shipped to mission posts in Central America, Cross Catholic Outreach will add a rosary and a pamphlet titled “The Story of Jesus,” published in the recipient’s native language.

Cross Catholic Outreach has, since its founding in 2001, donated more than $1 billion in aid to help “the poorest of the poor” in more than three dozen developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and other parts of the world. When Cross Catholic Outreach started “Box of Joy” in 2014, they were able to share their popular packages with 2,693 children in Guatemala. The program has expanded each year, and this year, they have an energetic goal: Send Boxes of Joy to 85,000 children in Haiti, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Abby Johnson, the new ambassador for “Box of Joy,” is a former abortion clinic worker whose pro-life story is told in the film “Unplanned.” Abby explained how packing gifts for “Box of Joy” has been a family tradition for Johnson and her eight children. “For our family,” she said,

...Box of Joy has been a way to demonstrate the needs of other children and to show our own kids what it means to be compassionate and loving. They love shopping for the children and understand that these children don't have the material conveniences they do, and they are able to grasp the concept of helping others. Packing our Boxes of Joy has become a family tradition and I want to share that with others.

Abby encourages pro-life people to use the power of social media to enlist the help of their family, friends and church. She suggests that people set up a packing party with other families or go shopping together, or present the idea as a service project for students. Cross Catholic Outreach provides a helpful list of needed items to get you started on the project.

Because it takes time to ship the packages and distribute them in the needy communities, we need to act quickly to get the boxes ready. Participants can pack Boxes of Joy and distribute them to their local drop-off centers during Box of Joy Week (Nov. 2-10, 2019). Here is a map of local drop-off centers; if there is no center near your home, you can also send your Box of Joy directly to Cross Catholic Outreach’s National Screening Center c/o Logistics Corp., 2100 NW 129th Ave., Suite 104, Miami, FL 33182.

And if you’re unable to shop and pack a Box of Joy yourself, you can still counter the secular Christmas culture by sponsoring a box.