So often ... way too often, a well-meaning line of questioning about BFGO turns sour because the inquisitor wants to know what they can purchase for the kids because they'd prefer to give a tangible object rather than money. I'd never suggest that this feeling/belief/desire is wrong, but it's often not best.
No two mission trips or charities are the same. Some countries are easier to serve because they are geographically closer, goods are more readily available, ships or planes make multiple daily stops, economies are friendlier (low prices), and multiple other reasons.
I love that people want to send backpacks full of books to Zimbabwe. The heart for this is precious. But that will not ever make sense - and here is why: school supplies are easy to buy in Zimbabwe. Very easy. Some items are more expensive than in the USA but some are cheaper - together it all works out. To ship a SMALL 10 lb box from Franklin, TN to Zimbabwe costs us $150. Then the recipient in Zimbabwe has to pay a customs/import tax. By the time we've paid the fees, the shipping costs far exceed the value of what was in the box.
Almost everything that our Zim babies need can be purchased right there.
When our missionaries travel to Zim, we do cram as much "free stuff" in our bags as we can. Over the years we have taken dental supplies, clothes, vitamins, medications, books, bibles, computers, printers, etc. Often we have to pay $100 for each additional piece of luggage over the airline limits. If we pay an additional $100 for a box of toothbrushes, we have spent way more than it would have cost to purchase toothbrushes at the Zim market. This is true for most things.
The exceptions to the above are (1) technology (2) medication (3) certain text books.
We cannot send the children Christmas Presents but we can send them each $10 to go shopping for their favorite hair clips, small toys, ball caps, or earbuds. We cannot send them warm blankets but we can purchase them brand-new $30 each. We cannot send or deliver school supplies, but we can fully supply a child for $20.
Zim has nearly all of the goods but our orphanage partner simply lacks the funds to purchase them. This is straight economics. In a country with a 90% (usually higher) unemployment rate, the sad fact is that for our friends, it is nearly impossible to obtain the needed items. This is why people die for no good reason ... lack of water, lack of medication, lack of shelter. And these reasons go back to the root of why we partnered with them in the first place, even why we formed BFGO. It's so simple... they need money to buy necessities and to pay for school fees, medications and some food items. And although we haven't shared much about the other details, we are also helping pay the salaries of the caregivers and teachers as well as the rental fees for their various shelters. (They rent 5 houses: 3 orphanage houses, 1 school and the Poultry farm).
During this Christmas season, I know how fun it is to pack boxes for Samaritans Purse, donate coats for the homeless, deliver meals to the shelters and choose an angel off the tree to provide for a vulnerable child. These are beautiful - in fact, stunningly beautiful. My family also has participated in all of these activities. It is so important to give in tangible ways and to teach your children. My kids have had fun in selecting items for those boxes and for those angels. They have gone into homes with me to deliver groceries and we've left in tears. Donating much needed funds is also a beautiful activity and it's impact shouldn't be diminished.
A financial donation online isn't quite as touchy and feely, but for organizations like ours where money does the greatest amount of good for our orphaned kiddos, your donations are almost too impactful to measure. Please consider a financial donation to BFGO during this Christmas season. We are raising money specifically for unpaid rentals and a Christmas Gift for each child - that they will select at a market in Zim next week.