“We know these have been very hard times. For our friends and family at home and for so many people abroad. The pandemic has pushed millions of people over the poverty line and made desperate situations distressingly worse. We were so humbled, that in a time where a lot of us are struggling, to have witnessed such incredible acts of generosity and kindness, spreading joy to children.”Dave Cooke, Founder
Where did they go?
From across the UK, your shoebox gifts headed out to orphanages in Belarus; and to deprived communities in Bosnia, Romania and Moldova. Despite the challenges of lockdowns, restrictions and even Brexit, all lorries made it across the Channel, with our last load arriving in Moldova on the 20th January.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small country with a population of only 3.8 million people. Approximately one-fifth of the population lives below the poverty-line, with a further 50 percent of the country vulnerable to social exclusion. The impact of the pandemic is expected to push Bosnia and Herzegovina into its worst recession in 25 years with an estimated 139,000 people losing their jobs. The World Bank believes the consequences of COVID will cause 300,000 more people to fall into poverty across the Western Balkans.
Your shoeboxes were distributed through The Red Cross to Internally Displaced People groups (it is estimated that there are still 99,000 IDPs living in the country as a result of the Bosnian War in 1995) and refugees.
Over 20,000 children live as registered orphans in Belarus and are cared for by the State in institutions that house between 100-150 children. Many have additional physical and/or learning needs and few are ever adopted. COVID has impacted financial support for these orphanages with many not able to afford fresh vegetables or other basic supplies.
Your boxes were given to children in orphanages around the Minsk area of Belarus, as well as to marginalised communities in rural provinces.
“COVID has changed our usual world. Everything turned upside down in just one year. But love shared from heart-to-heart remained unchanged. The love, with which the gifts were collected brought hope to so many! Together, with you, we gave hope, and were a source of blessings in so many homes.”Dima Nachyna, Project Lead in Belarus.
Your shoeboxes were distributed in the Arad and Bihor counties of Western Romania, through schools, churches and within communities, as restrictions allowed.
Romania has always ranked highly within the EU for the percentage of its people at risk of poverty. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been heightened concerns about the effects on a country that already has higher-than-average rates of social exclusion. The economic impact of lockdown restrictions has also been extreme with tens of thousands of people losing their income.
“I’ve distributed over 10,000 gifts into dozens of towns and received thousands of smiles from children I’ve never known. The joy hidden in these little colourful and sparkling gifts can only be told by the children who waited for them, with expectation and emotion in their hearts. One boy even told me he thought his gift came directly from heaven.”Raul Gherle, Project Lead in Bihor, Romania.
Moldova is considered the lowest-income country in Europe with parts of the population living on salaries of less than £2 a day. Only 43 percent of those living in abject poverty have access to clean water and 25% of children have no access to secondary education. In 2020, Moldova has been simultaneously hit by COVID-19 pandemic and one of the most severe droughts in the past two decades, with an estimated 70,000 jobs lost – 50% of them in the 35-44yrs age bracket affecting many people with young families.
Your boxes have been distributed in orphanages; to families referred by the Moldovan Government’s social care program, and to the most marginalised in Northern Moldova.