Holiday cheer prevailed at UTM last week, as the Undergraduate Commerce Society (UCS) hosted its annual “5 Days of Giving” event. Running from November 12–16, each day featured a different theme. This included donation drives for toys and school supplies, as well as social events, including a ‘de-stress day’ on Thursday for students to unwind by making Christmas cards, friendship bracelets, and more.

The UCS, which represents over 1,300 commerce students at UTM, has been running the “5 Days of Giving” initiative since 2015 in collaboration with other campus groups. The UTM Students’ Union co-hosted this year’s event alongside Free the Children at UTM, the UTM Residence Council, and the Undergraduate Economics Council.

Each year, the donations go to a different charity. Religious groups, including Muslim organization Canada Zakat and Christian organization Salvation Army, are among past recipients. This year, all proceeds went to Christian organization Samaritan’s Purse to support their annual Operation Christmas Child (OCC). According to its website, Samaritan’s Purse has “helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.”

OCC was launched in 1990 to “bless struggling children in the developing world by filling shoeboxes with toys, hygiene items, school supplies, and other items.” OCC encourages donations of items such as toys, school supplies, and hygiene items, packed into shoeboxes. These shoeboxes have been sent to over 100 million children in over 130 countries. In 2017, through donations drives similar to “5 Days of Giving,” Canadians reportedly provided over 600,000 shoeboxes of donations to children in the developing world.

Regarding the UCS’s decision to collaborate with Samaritan’s Purse, Corporate Social Responsibility Director Sabrina Rodgers explained, “I stumbled upon a video by the Operation Christmas Child UK where children were opening gift boxes. Their reaction melted my heart.”

When asked about the general steps that the UCS has put in place to hold Samaritan’s Purse accountable, Rodgers told The Varsity that she “confirmed the legitimacy” of the organization by ensuring that it was registered as a charitable organization, and also confirming on its 2017 annual report that about 90 per cent of spending goes toward charitable programs.

Frank King, the news media relations manager of Samaritan’s Purse, said that while the organization usually works with Christian universities and churches, it is not uncommon for the organization to collaborate with other groups for causes such as OCC and other humanitarian initiatives.

King emphasized that the work carried out through the organization is with the help of generous Canadians; Samaritan’s Purse currently works with an estimated 20,000 volunteers in Ontario and Alberta each year at its collection centres, where donations are packed and processed for shipping to children overseas.