Kintyre helps to provide Christmas love and cheer

Blythswood Care drivers James O’ Neil and Gerry Tapley were overwhelmed by the response from Kintyre.

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A national charity has been overwhelmed by the response from the Kintyre community following its 2020 Shoebox Appeal.

On Thursday, November 5, the Blythswood Care truck visited Campbeltown and collected more than 120 shoeboxes wrapped in Christmas paper and filled with gifts.

People from the town and as far afield as Southend and Tayinloan came to deliver their boxes, and to bring some happiness to people who have very little by way of material possessions.

The lorry then headed for Tarbert and Lochgilphead where it collected more boxes before taking them to a sorting depot for checking before being transported on to Eastern Europe.

‘Blythswood provides a list of items to put in the box, and the choice is whether to pack a box for a boy or a girl, a man, or a woman. A label is stuck on the box telling what is inside. Essentials are hats, scarves, gloves, socks, underpants, toothbrush and paste, soap, sweets and for a child a small toy,’ said Blythswood Shoebox Appeal supporter Liz Ferguson.

‘The fun is to see how much more you can get in. But what we do not see is the difference it makes to lives in Eastern Europe.’

Here is Firjona’s story:

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 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.

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,’ said Faton, ‘especially toiletries such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste.’

‘The gifts you so lovingly pack in your shoeboxes are essential for these families who are living in such dire poverty. You are making a difference in this world.’

If anyone has not heard of the shoebox appeal before or have not got round to packing a box, there is always next year.

Start preparing now by checking out and being inspired by the stories on the Blythswood Care website at blythswood.org, and if buying a pair of shoes over the year, don’t throw away the box but save it up for next September/October when it will once more be time to pack a box.

For the Blythswood team who came down with the lorry, one of the highlights was being handed a box by a young person who had just heard about the Shoebox Appeal and wished she had known about it earlier.

And the latest news is that this week already a lorry has left Scotland to take shoeboxes to Romania.

The mother of these children, named Firjona, Valtrimi and Valtrina, said how helpful the shoeboxes are to the family.