From large Roma communities, to snowbound villages and poor families living in rural isolation, last year’s Christmas box appeal reached further than ever before, with 11,006 boxes being given out in Bulgaria by FSCI and its local partners.
“A big thank you from the FSCI team has to go to everyone who contributed towards the 2018 appeal,” says Rich Parsons, the project lead. “We had a tremendous response from schools in particular, and the appeal gives UK children a simple, practical way of helping – and spreading a good deal of joy!”
The appeal opens a window onto the world of grass-roots organisations in Bulgaria. FSCI distributes a lot of Christmas boxes through these carefully chosen, locally led NGOs and churches, helping them to make stronger connections with the communities they serve and develop more effective projects to help long-term.
The Christmas box team visited an isolated Roma community where more than sixty children had been waiting in a small room for over six hours. Betty Cornett, who works with FSCI partner organisation Hope Restored Bulgaria, asks “If this was the only present you were going to receive this Christmas, and you knew that, how long would you wait?” The boxes have enabled the local Bulgarian-led organisation to provide education support for some of the poorest families in the area, boosting the chances of young children making a success of school.
In the small village of Nikudin, the team were able to give boxes to elderly folk so that they in turn would have something to give to their grandchildren. “You could see that the fact they had something which they could then give meant so much to them,” says Rich. “Many rural elderly cannot afford the cost of living and feel completely neglected by the rest of society. We worked with a team from Light for Bulgaria, an organisation that serves some seventy villages. The Christmas boxes are a great help to them as they look for practical ways to connect elderly folk and poor families to each other and the services they need.”
One distribution left a lasting impression on Rich. “We went to visit a Roma family who lived in a tiny house on the outskirts of a village, where we gave out Christmas boxes. These kids had next to nothing, but they wanted to do something for us. Two of the children, who were only five or six years old, wanted to pray for us, which was very moving. “
The Christmas boxes bring such joy in the moment – but their distribution opens more opportunities to work with vulnerable people and communities. There really is a good deal more to see than a simple present.