AN AMAZING 4,000 shoeboxes were transported from Wrexham to Romania bringing joy to children at Christmas.
The Care Shoebox appeal in Wrexham delivered festive cheer to thousands of children in Crisana and Transylvania thanks to donations from across the region.
A team of eight volunteers gave out the Christmas gifts to schools, an orphanage, a centre for those with special needs and from home to home.
Elizabeth York, from the organisers Team4U, said: “The poverty was heartbreaking.
“It was so shocking seeing families with six or more children living in shacks no bigger than my bathroom and children walking around in crocs or ragged plimsolls in sub-zero temperatures.”
The volunteer team travelled the route of original organiser Dave Cooke’s first-ever shoebox convoy that left Wrexham in 1990 and revisited the Tileagd orphanage.
The team were greeted with singing and laughter and received hand-made Christmas cards from the children receiving gifts.
Trip leader Sharon Hedges said: “One of the orphans opened her shoebox and put her head on it like a pillow. She was so happy, she cried.”
Most of the distributions were in communities of marginalised people pushed by discrimination to live on the outskirts of society.
One community scraped a living from scavenging the nearby dumpsite, looking for plastic bottles. They work up to 12 hours a day to put bread on the table.
The team gave out the shoeboxes in temperatures as low as -13°C to children living in freezing one-roomed homes made from mud.
The poorest of the poor have no money to buy firewood.
From donations and team fundraising, food parcels and sacks of potatoes were given out to the struggling families to help them survive the harsh winter.
Dave Cooke, founder of the shoebox project said: “It’s a pretty bleak existence for these children.
“They grow up neglected and/or abused, not knowing from day-to-day if there’ll be anything to eat. But the power of the shoebox is to bring light into the darkness and to give these children back their childhood. To let them know that somewhere someone cares for them.”
One of the stories that really epitomises the power of the shoebox was in Cluj.
Volunteer Dorothy Watson, from Wrexham, said: “We visited this tiny home with five children, and this tot came out in the snow with bare feet and legs, and the man helping us shouted at the mother to get the child indoors.
“We went in the house and none of the children had socks. We opened each shoebox with them and in every box was a set of socks – one set had five pairs.”
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas hopes this year’s success is emulated.
He said: “The Shoebox Campaign was, originally, a great Wrexham initiative expressing the generosity of spirit of the town. I hope we can build on this year’s success and get more and more people involved for next year.”
Teams4U want to thank every individual, group, church and workplace that donated shoeboxes, and in particular the 28 schools in Wrexham that supported and enabled the charity to send so many shoeboxes to Romanian children this Christmas.