A simple shoebox packed with your love and care

Shoe Box Appeal

Despite the difficulties that they face everyday – through poverty, illness, disability or other disadvantages – receiving a shoebox brings such joy to children and adults in Eastern Europe, that their faces light up with huge smiles.

Be encouraged as you read our stories of how your shoebox made such a difference at Christmas.

Your generosity brings joy to others at Christmas

Larisa

Larisa's Story

A soft toy, a toothbrush, a pink rubber ball, coloured crayons.

When you’re three, everything is new. A kind person, far away, has sent Larisa a whole box full of new things to be explored, squeezed and wondered at.

She doesn’t know it yet, but the crayons are a first step along the road that leads to school, literacy and participation in the big wide world. Now she can learn how to hold a pencil.

The challenges that face Larisa are considerable. Her mother tongue is Romani, the language of the Roma people but schooling is in Romanian. In pre-school nursery she will be expected to learn a whole new language.

Her mum learned to read and write with the assistance of Talita Kum, Blythswood’s after-school programme, but dropped out of education at just 13 years of age to be married, the custom of her people.

Her dad takes odd jobs in construction whenever he can and sometimes works away from home for long periods of time.

Throughout the covid-19 lockdown this family of six received a daily warm meal from the Talita Kum canteen to make sure they did not go hungry.

By filling a box for Blythswood’s Shoe Box Appeal you give practical aid to families like this, and open new horizons for children like Larisa.

Firjona

Firjona's Story

Firjona is five years old, Valtrimi is three and Valtrina is not yet two. They were not wearing shoes when Faton Berisha delivered Blythswood shoeboxes to their one-roomed home in a village near the city of Gjakova, Kosovo. It is unlikely they own shoes.

The parents of these children struggle to even feed their family, and their only available work is by recycling waste aluminium and plastics. A quick internet search backs up this scenario with news site france24.com referencing a report from 2018. This told of almost half of all households in the Balkan state have no refuse collection, which creates an opportunity for families like these to rummage through the waste.

But it comes at considerable cost: it was estimated that workers in the unregulated recycling sector earned between 50 and 100 euros per month, with children often assisting their parents in the hazardous work. The result is missed school and further stigmatisation of ethnic minorities, especially Roma families. Working with rubbish does not build respect.

“The mother of these children said that the shoeboxes are so helpful to them,” Faton says. “Especially toiletries such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste.”

The gifts you so lovingly pack in your shoebox are essential for these families who are living in such dire poverty. You are making a difference in this world.

Petya

Petya's Story

Petya wears all her clothes at home because she is really cold. When Zhani Slavcheva visited the widow in Sliven, Bulgaria, the electricity had been disconnected and there was no wood for the stove. It was bitterly cold inside and out.

“We gave her two boxes and the first thing she saw were sanitary pads,” Zhani says. “She said they would be for her daughter who was expecting a baby a month later.

“Then she found a sewing set with threads, needles and a tape measure. That made her smile because she used to knit and sew to support her family while her late husband spent his wages on alcohol. She said God knew she had no reels of thread and had sent her some.

“She was as excited as a child, rummaging through her box and discovering three pairs of socks and a beautiful scarf.

“And she was pleased to see the calendar as she has a Bible and reads it and sometimes goes to church. We prayed together and read with her the calendar’s monthly verse: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

We are so thankful to you, our supporters, for your generosity and your willingness to show love to others in this world.

Barnabas

Barnabas' Story

If Barnabas looks a little dazed, it’s because he’s not sure what’s going on. His mother has just disturbed his nap because somebody has arrived to give him an exciting, large, brightly-wrapped box.

Barnabas is really too young to understand that the new clothes, the soap, the sweets are things that his mum has no money to buy for him or his baby sister. Things that are desperately needed and longed for. And, he’s too young to understand the reason they’re all staying with his grandpa in a single-roomed house without a kitchen or a toilet. Barnabas’s mum recently fled from the violence and abuse she received from her husband, who has now been charged with these offences.

Sadly, neither his mum nor his grandpa have jobs. The presents that you have given this family are all not just useful but essential and bring so much comfort and joy. “Your kindness makes such a difference to families living in poverty,” says Melinda who delivered the boxes to Ozd in northern Hungary. “Not every photo captures a smile but I can tell you that these people really appreciate the gifts.”

Your gift makes such a huge difference to the lives of the poor and vulnerable in this world.

Amir

Amir’s Story

The basic and overcrowded conditions of the Roma camp at Kragujevac, Serbia, are all Amir has ever known.

Each room is home to an entire family, even one with eight children. Water is carried home in plastic containers. Many children do not attend school. Some of the parents are unable to read or write.

Older members of this community can remember what it was like to live on the roadside and then under a bridge after their displacement from Kosovo in 1999. For nearly 20 years, Pastor Dragisa Armus has been visiting these families, bringing them oil, pasta, flour and sugar, as well as boxes from Blythswood’s annual Shoe Box Appeal.

Today Amir’s family survives by collecting scrap metal and plastic for recycling. For people in their situation every item in a Blythswood shoebox is valued and useful – clothes, toiletries, sweets, tools and stationery.

“The people we give your shoeboxes to are always immensely grateful,” says Blythswood’s chief executive James Campbell. “It’s amazing to see the impact that some of these boxes have had on those who receive them. I really want to encourage you to fill a shoebox this year because it does make such a difference to lives that are otherwise almost hopeless.”

Manuel

Manuel’s Story

Binoculars! Manuel was fascinated by the unusual gift which he discovered in his Blythswood shoebox.

His sister Daniela was pleased to find a blouse and hat in her box.

These were not the only gifts of clothes she received in December – her classmates had already clubbed together to buy her a pair of trousers and a sweater. Their act of kindness testified to the family’s real poverty, even by the standards of Bathore which is one of the poorest districts of Tirana, Albania.

The children’s parents are both in poor health and unable to work. They have no money to buy medicine for an older brother who suffers from epilepsy.

At just 5,000 Albanian lek (about £36) per month, the family’s income is just enough to buy the flour, beans and vegetables which they need to stay alive.

They have a fridge which does not work. In December, that does not matter so much as they have no money to keep their heater supplied with gas.

“Your gifts brought them hope last Christmas,” says shoebox distributor Besa Shapllo.

“When Jesus was born, God chose to give the amazing news to the shepherds, ordinary people faced with ongoing problems in their day-to-day lives, just like this family.”

Antona

Antona’s Story

A widow for 11 years, Antona is 75 years old and lives in Bulgaria. Two years ago Antona received a shoebox from our Shoe Box Appeal.

In Antona’s shoebox was Jesus the Promised Child. It simply tells the stories around the birth of Jesus, looking at the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Hungry to find out more, Antona went to church – for the first time.

Antona is almost lame, and struggles getting about, but someone from the local church gives her a lift and now she’s coming to church, there’s no stopping her! Antona regularly attends church and has made a commitment of faith, becoming a Christian.

Jesus tells us that when you become a Christian life doesn’t miraculously get easy, but we know we have God with us to help us get through these hard times. Since becoming a Christian, life has been hard for Antona. Her grandson was killed in a car accident and shortly afterwards her daughter died. Losing two people in her family was really tough for Antona, but her faith is helping her cope with this tragic situation.

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Shoe Box Appeal

Can you help us by filling a shoebox, sorting and checking shoeboxes or by donating to the appeal in 2020?

Shoe Box Appeal

Can you help us by filling a shoebox, sorting and checking shoeboxes or by donating to the appeal in 2020?

Shoe Box Appeal

Can you help us by filling a shoebox, sorting and checking shoeboxes or by donating to the appeal in 2020?

Featured projects

Showcasing some of the work we do

COMMUNITY

Foodbanks

Over 62,000 people in Highland have been fed through our foodbanks. Everyday people are struggling to put food on the table.

Blythswood Care provides food, care and support to people in crisis.

GOSPEL

Gospel Literature & Radio

From its origins as the Blythswood Tract Society in 1966, Blythswood has promoted the good news of Jesus Christ through printed media.

We support pastors, Christian radio and bible distribution to people of different cultures and languages.

EDUCATION

Talita Kum

When schools close at midday, many young children have to fend for themselves. We provide a six-hour programme for children from some of the poorest households in Romania.

The children receive clothing and a weekly shower as well as nourishing meals.

GOSPEL

Seafarers

Your gifts provide the Seafarers’ Centre in Invergordon with Bibles, New Testaments and booklets in 15 languages, to help grow their faith.

Men and women, many miles from home, find friendship, comfort and Christian fellowship here in the Highlands.