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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 01:15 GMT
Blairs back shoebox appeal
Children in Azerbaijan
Shoe boxes are sent around the world
Tony Blair and his family have joined about a million people in the UK who have sent a shoebox packed with Christmas gifts to poor children across the world.

They have taken part in a scheme called Operation Christmas Child, which is supported by thousands of schools as well as churches and other organisations.

The project is run internationally by the Christian relief and evangelism organisation Samaritan's Purse, whose president is Franklin Graham, son of the evangelist Billy Graham.

The Blairs sent a "beautifully wrapped" box in white and silver, the organisers said.

Perfect box

John Bree, who manages Operation Christmas Child in England and Wales, is taking the box to Armenia in January, where it will be one of thousands handed out there.

"It's a perfect box," he said.

"There's a lovely red House of Commons scarf in it, a woolly hat from London, tooth brush, tooth paste, crayons, pencils soap, a card from the Blairs and a box of hand-made chocolates."

This year the organisers expect to send out 1.1 million shoe boxes from the UK.

They go all over the world, to South America, African countries, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

Evangelism

Many go to orphanages or schools for children with disabilities as well as to poor families, organisers say.

Those who receive the gifts are chosen by Samaritan's Purse partners in the countries involved - normally a church group.

The organisers say people who receive the shoe boxes are not put under pressure to go to church, although evangelical literature is sometimes distributed with the boxes.

John Bree says this year's campaign has been very successful.

"Already, more than one million boxes have been exported to some very needy children.

"We are very pleased," he said.

See also:

04 Nov 01 | Education
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