Student senate opts out of Operation Christmas Child

File photo.
File photo.

Student senate has elected not to participate in Operation Christmas Child (OCC) following two consecutive years of participation.

Jerry Grieser, vice president of public relations for student senate, cited concerns raised by World Renew (previously known as Christian Reformed World Relief Committee) as a leading factor in discontinuing its OCC program.

“[World Renew] raised concerns about Operation Christmas Child’s mission strategy,” Grieser said.

Greiser said that World Renew felt that OCC was a band-aid approach as it fixed a symptom, but not a cause. Greiser added that World Renew prefers to see more sustainable giving options, such as raising money to purchase a goat, cow or well. Giving children toys doesn’t really solve the real-life problems that they face, Greiser said.

Thomas E. McWhertor, director of constituency relations for World Renew, was unavailable for comment.

OCC is a ministry project organized by Samaritan’s Purse International Relief. According to the organization’s website, “Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”

In addition to World Renew’s concern, Grieser cited low student participation as another factor in the decision.

“Senate has only done OCC for the past two years and compared to the amount of work that we put into it, we had a fairly low amount of students who donated shoeboxes,” Greiser said.

“Because of World Renew’s concerns and our own observations,” he said, “we decided that our energies could be better invested in other areas of student need.”

Greiser stressed that senate’s decision to stop participation with OCC does not imply lack of concern for social issues.

“Student senate is concerned about social justice and we recognize that there is student interest for various social justice programs,” said Grieser. “However, given the evidence, we decided it would not be in our best interest to continue this program for a third year.”

Greiser said senate has opted to invest elsewhere.

“Earlier this year, we allocated $750 to the Social Justice Coalition for students to be able to spearhead their own service projects directly in Grand Rapids,” said Greiser. “This was in response to a student proposal that we had received during Proposal Week.”

Sophomore Michael David questions student senate’s decision to reallocate funds.

“I feel like student senate canceling Operation Christmas Child and giving their money to another organization is like taking the easy way out,” he said. “Operation Christmas Child impacts more people in need globally than a student run organization such as the Social Justice Coalition. There should be a suitable replacement for not doing OCC than just giving money to another student organization.”

Senior Carissa Van Haitsma hopes student senate will continue participating in a charity.

“It is important for student senate to take part in at least one charity for the year,” she said. “If they are completely eliminating all their charitable activities then I think they need to rethink their goals.”

Greiser added that future student senate participation with OCC will be a decision left to each year’s senate.

Greiser said senate hopes to hear from students about ideas for future investments.

“We are very open to receiving more proposals or ideas about different social justice causes that we could potentially invest in,” said Greiser.

This year’s OCC will be sponsored by International Reconciliation Organization (INTRO), a student organization.

“INTRO has done OCC in the past and didn’t have any other events planned for November so we thought we would take it on,”  said Ellie Hutchinson, a representative for INTRO.

For more information about getting involved with OCC contact INTRO representative Ellie Hutchinson.

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