What is important about the shoe box?

You are important because without you it would not exist. The child receiving the box is important because their need is so great. Thirdly the shoe box appeal indirectly helps a huge truck of both shoe boxes and humanitarian aid that will arrive in Romania at a time of deep cold and depression to a community made up of mostly non income families.

Maria is a young child in a village in North East Romania. She lives in a very small one room hut. The walls are made of mud; the roof is made of wood, asbestos and sometimes even straw. Maria has no electricity and water is from a well a long way away. Her toilet is a whole in the garden some metres away from the house. There would normally be a clay oven built in the corner of the room with a little door to put the wood in to burn.

The room is about 3metres by 4 metres and the reason for it is small rooms are warm rooms. Also the branches of wood needed for the ceiling are generally short. There is always a good reason for most things. When the light starts to go outside this usually signals time for bed. The beds are more often made of rough wood. The legs are branches of trees. The bed is covered with a liberal amount of dry grass with a cover over and believe it or not they are quite comfortable. The floors are mud and covered with homemade rugs if the family can afford them or make them. They are usually made out of old clothes and rags. These were made traditionally in England many years ago in the same fashion. Furniture will be an absolute minimum, rarely a wardrobe or chairs. More often a box for a table.

They have the habit of hanging wall coverings around the bed which gives a bit of colour and stops the damp coming through from the walls to the bed. Some families have candles and quite often children will do their homework by candlelight which is not good for their eyes of course. Bedtime is usually 9 o'clock but children are up at dawn. Many have to go long distances before school to bring water for the animals and sometimes even fill a barrel to be used at home during the day.

To see young children sometimes bare footed struggling down the street with two huge buckets of water trying not to spill it is heartbreaking. When they finish these jobs which could include milking cows or goats, cleaning and lighting fires they get ready for school which could mean quite a walk, in some cases up to a mile. This is in all weathers. Schools in the winter are absolutely freezing and children spend the whole day in class learning with their hats, coats, scarves, boots and gloves on. This includes the teachers. Heating rarely exists.

One of the other things I should mention about children is that the family has to supply the school materials: books, pencils, everything that is needed. Fortunately for the ones that have Godparents Convoy aid supplies school materials and usually the shoe boxes contain some of these things as well. It is strange but can you imagine if you are out playing or walking to and from the school or just generally about in the country side , if you see a twig or a piece of cardboard or a lump of wood or something burnable you pick it up and take it home for the fire. Non income families cannot afford to buy wood.

When the children come home from school they have to go and collect the animals, feed them, clean them or help with any of the physical work around the house. It is hoped that by the time the child reaches marriageable age they have learnt all the skills of survival so that they can look after their own new families. This is a hard, hard life in a very hard and unforgiving environment with severe winters at -40 degrees sometimes yearly floods, torrential rains and then to long dry summers with temperatures in their +40 degrees, where breathing is difficult, where asthmatics struggle to breathe.

We in England cannot imagine life on this scale. We have problems but nothing like the problems of the children in Eastern Europe. So any help that you can give them is unbelievably appreciated. Clothing that you throw away they only dream about. The contents of the shoe box are so appreciated. But please remember, without you making it or donating the clothes we would have nothing to take. Everything begins and ends with your generosity and kindness.

At the time we do the shoe box appeal we also ask for clothing and shoes, particularly at Christmas and winter time. There are second hand shops in Romania but if you have no money you cannot buy them and although our videos show fairly well dressed children this is purely and simply because they have received them as gifts from other children in England previously. That is the truth. The reality is Romania is a third world country in the European Union, our Union!