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
Fill a box for someone as poor as Emil and it’s hard to go wrong.
Quite simply, he has nothing. Okay, the walking frame which enables him to shuffle along, and the clothes on his back. And that’s it.
The semi-derelict building in which he shelters is owned by the local authority. It lacks heating, electricity or running water.
He lives on the left-overs he finds in bins, or receives from kind neighbours.
Imagine what you can do to brighten his day. A warm pair of socks. Some stretchy boxers. A bar of soap.
A packet of sweets.
A wind-up torch. A woolly hat. It’s not difficult, is it?
And that unique, carefully gift-wrapped box which shows that somebody, somewhere cares.
“We visit Emil every Christmas and give him a shoebox,” says Adrian Popa who distributes boxes in and around Jimbolia, western Romania.
“He is genuinely grateful.”
Margit peers from her mother’s arms, clutching a shoebox almost as big as herself. The youngest in a family of five children, the wan four-year-old shivers in the winter sun. She has a heart disorder and the partner organisation which distributed your gift-filled boxes makes sure that this family can access medical care as required.
It also runs a charity point with laundry facilities, to which Margit’s mother wheels a pram full of washing each week.
“It’s quite difficult to do the washing for a family of seven by hand,” observes shoebox distributor Andras Berki. “They depend on firewood for heating and have to carry water from a public pump.”
Boards cover broken windows in the family’s village home in central Hungary, and blankets are stuffed in cracks to protect against the cold.
For low-income families like this, Blythswood shoeboxes are full of practical aid such as items for personal hygiene and new clothes, helping them to stay clean and warm.
“I want you to read me this story!”
Eight-year-old Krasimir is in the second grade at school and cannot yet read for himself. But curiosity is a powerful motive to learn and soon he persuades an older sister to read him the colourful book which he discovered in his Blythswood shoebox.
The age-old story of Sarah and Abraham is as relevant to the Roma community in central Bulgaria as it is to family life anywhere. When Abraham’s faith is tested, God provides a ram to take the place of Isaac, pointing to the coming of Jesus, God’s sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Each year Blythswood provides a Bible story book for children, a booklet of Christian testimony for teenagers or a calendar with Bible verses for adults. In 2022 the book for children is the story of Samson, while the teens’ booklet tells the story of Oana, a young Romanian who became a Christian.
Home for Krasimir is one small room which he shares with his parents and his six brothers and sisters. For families like his, every item in a Blythswood shoebox is useful and appreciated.
Three-year-old Andora was eagerly waiting at the door when Edjola Dalaci turned up at her home with gift-filled boxes for the family in Bathore, Albania. “She opened the box with a smile on her face,” Edjola reported. “Her brother Antonio was sleepy and didn’t want to come out. But his grandmother called him and told him that a gift was waiting for him.
“We can’t describe how amazed he was to find a car in his box. He stared and stared at it. Andora was very happy with a beautiful doll and was caressing it with so much love. They were both surprised to see soap in the shape of a rabbit. Their mum was happy to see a book of drawings for colouring in. Just that week she had been drawing some shapes for that purpose.”
The lorry load to Albania was the last to go from Blythswood’s 2021 Shoe Box Appeal, with some doubt if it would clear customs in time for Christmas. Edjola and her colleagues in Mission Possible Albania were able to obtain warehouse space in Tirana, just in time to receive the boxes on 22 December.
Reflecting on the way in which arrangements came together at the last minute, Edjola wrote: “It is so great to always rely on HIM, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
A month after sending her report on shoebox distribution, Edjola suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and passed away seven days later, on Sunday 20 March. Her colleague Gjergji Como says: “Now she is in heaven with Jesus whom she loved.”
Marioara was so excited to receive a Christmas gift that her mother Elena had to take her in her arms.
“We had just stopped on the outskirts of the village when we met this family” says Paula Croitor. “Marioara is the youngest of ten children.
“The parents, granny and children all live in a one-roomed house that works as a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and as a study room for the older children.
“Although their house is surrounded by mud, inside they keep the floor clean and they constantly wash their clothes.
“The toys brought happy smiles to the girl’s face and she loved the delicious jelly beans.”
One of the first boxes to be handed out last winter went to four-year-old Ismedin, in Gjakova, Kosovo, where 11 members of his extended family occupy a single-roomed dwelling.
“They are a very poor family,” says shoebox distributor Faton Berisha. “Their living conditions are difficult, especially in winter.
“Ismedin was very happy with his shoebox, especially when he found a toy, hat, gloves and sweets. Each member of the family received a box and they were so happy to find things which they needed, such as shampoo.”
Despite Covid-19 restrictions in the UK and Europe, Blythswood’s 2020 Shoe Box Appeal delivered 75,218 gift-filled boxes to eight countries in Eastern Europe.
Gleb is nine years old and lives with his mother. Sometimes she has too much to drink. When this happens volunteers from a local association for people with Down syndrome help to take care of the child.
She was amazed when the association presented her boy with a Blythswood shoebox, telling the volunteer, “There are so many things in one box and such a beautiful scarf and hat.”
Gleb liked it too – especially the pencils as he loves to draw.
Rifca and her family are the only Roma (Roma) in the village where they live, in Suceava, north-east Romania.
“The neighbours are not happy that they live there,” says shoebox distributor Paula Croitor. “Rifca doesn’t have running water and her well is dry. The neighbours don’t want to give her water but she found a Christian who lives further away from her house and who lets her take from his fountain the water she needs to drink, cook, wash and clean.
“She received the shoebox with so much joy as she isn’t used to too many kind gestures. We also gave her a gift box for her new-born baby. She felt so spoiled and blessed!”
Shoe Box Appeal
Can you help us by filling a shoebox, sorting and checking shoeboxes or by donating to the appeal in 2023?
Showcasing some of the work we do
Over 70,000 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 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.
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.
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.