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
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!”
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.