Shoebox Distribution Trip, December 2013

A team of 9 volunteers, self funded, went from Cumbria to Oradea, North West Romania, where we were met by Nicu Gal, our charity partner, from People to People Foundation.  These are some of the experiences told by different team members:

“Well, what a privilege it has been to spend a second week in Romania, distributing shoeboxes with Nicu and his team.  We arrived in Oradea and I think it is safe to say we hit the ground running!!  We worked solidly all week, visiting schools, churches, villages, community centres, old people’s homes and a day centre for disabled young adults.

I particularly loved going into schools to spend time with the children in their classes.  It was great sitting with them while they excitedly opened their boxes.  I was able to give out boxes that I had actually made up, which is amazing considering we took 9,007!  And seeing the reactions makes me even more determined to try and do more next year.

It was great going back to some of the villages from our previous trip, recognising little faces as we got out of the van.  And the adventure of the overnight trip was a definite added bonus.

I just love Romania and I want to go back!!  My fund raising started again as soon as I got home and I am already bargain hunting for shoeboxes!

Can’t wait for the next trip ………..”

“If you have not seen the conditions and the poverty first hand, you cannot believe that this is 21st century Europe.  A shoebox is a wonderful, simple and very welcome gift but the key to the future has got to be Education (with a capital E).  An inspirational example of this is Tinca School which Boxes of Hope has pledged to help with a child sponsorship scheme.  Individuals are also invited to sponsor a child’s education.”

“We visited a community housed in rather run-down communist era apartment blocks (rather than the isolated villages with mud shacks).  An improvement?  The family to whom I took shoeboxes (3 lovely little girls) were living in appalling conditions – bare concrete floors, bare brick walls and broken glass in the windows.  An electricity cable came through the window from another apartment, as the family could not afford to pay the bills.  The mother, very thin, hungry and undernourished, was so appreciative of the visit and the gifts.  She said as I was leaving (almost in tears): ‘God is good’.”

And now, from one of our team who has very generously donated, through a very elderly relative, a substantial amount of money to enable an extension at Tinca Community School to be completed, so that more children can receive an education.

“How to describe it ….. Exciting, Challenging, Bewildering, Feeling of hopelessness at being unable to help, Strenuous, Exhausting!  But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

The contrast between Oradea – a big, modern city which makes Kendal seem very small – and the absolutely unbelievable poverty in the Romany “villages” keeps coming into my mind. I have such complete admiration for Nicu and his band of helpers …. those dedicated pastors and workers who give their whole lives to help …… I am really privileged to be able to contribute some small amount, and I know my Auntie would fully agree”

And contributions from other team members:

“Having promoted shoeboxes in school for many years, it was a privilege for me to be part of the whole process: from assemblies in schools launching collections to actually handing over the Boxes of Hope to children in Romania.  I was overwhelmed and humbled by the enormity of the love and generosity of both children and adults who wrapped and filled boxes, knitted, donated money and extras, while all the time working together to make a difference to the lives of the Roma children.  This contrasts with the shocking image which remains with me of a stark naked child, aged about two to three, standing outside watching us on our last and coldest day when I had nothing left to give.”

“The village of Rapa Mic is very small and very poor indeed, only 10 houses and no water supply.  The families recognised some of the team who had visited last year……. I held a young girl, probably about my younger daughter’s age, 16 months.  She was wearing a sleepsuit which was absolutely filthy.  My daughter has one pretty much the same, but this one was so covered in dirt, she had probably been wearing it for weeks.  I tried to get a reaction from her, for her to laugh or smile, or react in any way, but she was completely blank.  She wasn’t at all bothered about being held by a complete stranger, who must have looked quite alien to her.  My children would never have been content in a stranger’s arms like that.  I could see the sadness and under-stimulation in her eyes.  The babies are often just left lying all day on a bed.  When asked if they ever fall off, we were told that yes they do, and that this teaches them not to do it again.  The floor in most of these houses is stone and compacted, hard mud”,

“Most of the children were inadequately dressed.  Many didn’t have any footwear, and those that did often had sandals or flip flops and not winter shoes or boots.  Many of the children were dressed only in T shirts or thin jumpers and were obviously freezing cold.  Many didn’t have any coats or outer garments.  We even saw children completely naked or with bare legs.  ………

Giving the boxes out was an amazing experience, to see their little eyes light up with excitement.  They would usually put on their hats and gloves straight away.  You could see that they wouldn’t cope with any kind of complicated toy, anything that needed much skill to assemble, as they are just not used to having toys and often don’t know what they are supposed to do with them, they don’t know how to play.  One strong memory I have is of a little girl aged about 2 and a half.  She was at the end of a long line of children and we ran out of boxes.  We had to climb into the back of the trailer to open another large carton to get her a box. She looked so sad and I had tears welling up in my eyes just looking at her.  Her Mum was very young, only in her mid teens, and was carrying another smaller child as well.  I gave the little girl her box and she didn’t know what to do.  She just looked very blank, I guess the whole experience must have been completely overwhelming for her.  I opened the box and inside was a horse toy – like a ‘my little pony’.  I got this out and made horsey noises and galloping actions with the pony but she was completely blank, she had probably never had a toy of her own before.  I found this heart breaking.  I’m sure that later on in her own home she would enjoy that pony but the comparison between her and my own daughters was striking”

“I went to find a 4 year old girl we had met on our last visit.  A group of ladies recognised her photo and her Mum took me up to the house.  It was one of the poorest:  just an old carpet trying to protect the doorway, then straight into the one room which had couches on 2 sides, covered with filthy bedding.  There she was, sitting in a corner, poorly clothed, eating some sort of potato stew from a communal bowl.  Her younger sister was asleep, with flies crawling across her face.  The room was warm from a rusty old ‘wood burner’, but the conditions still shocked and saddened me.  I had some clothing for the family in my rucksack, and I gave her a beautiful coat which had been donated by a Mum back home in Cumbria.  She smiled, and took my hand to walk back into the village to get her shoebox.  Back home again she found a colouring book and wax crayons in her box, and then she came to life.  The even better news is that her older brother, whom we had also met last year, was at the village school, and this gave me some hope that the little girl will also go to school next year.”