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September 30, 2016
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Czech children give a record 3 873 Christmas gifts to their impoverished peers

6.1.2016 14:55
The distribution of Christmas gifts in the Czech town of Chotěboř. (PHOTO:  krabiceodbot.cz)
The distribution of Christmas gifts in the Czech town of Chotěboř. (PHOTO: krabiceodbot.cz)

Diaconia of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren reports that through one of its projects a record 3 873 boxes of Christmas presents were distributed to children from socially vulnerable families or excluded localities in the Czech Republic this holiday season. The Christmas surprises, wrapped in shoe boxes, were prepared by other children from various locations around the country with the aid of their parents or teachers.

Those involved in the project were civic associations, individuals, mother's centers, parishes and schools. The fifth annual "Shoe Boxes, or Children Give to Children" project took place under the auspices of Diaconia of the Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren, reportedly bringing a glimmer of joy to places that very often never see it.

"This action has two purposes:  To give children from poorer families nice Christmas gifts, perhaps the only present they will receive at Christmas, and to teach children from well-off families solidarity," said Evangelical parson Mikuláš Vymětal, who initiated the project. Every year a large number of volunteers contributes to the distribution.

As the project's name indicates, its basis is an ordinary shoe box.  With the aid of adults, children fill such a box with appropriate gifts and wrap it nicely.

The gifts are delivered to collections sites. The boxes are then distributed to those who need them, usually to children living in so-called socially excluded localities.

According to Diakonia, the action is just one way to overcome the growing indifference, bordering on antagonism, that is being expressed in the Czech Republic toward those who have ended up "on the outskirts" of society. This year the boxes accumulated at 22 collections sites across the republic, from which organizers delivered them to children in selected localities before Christmas after first consulting with experts.

Gifts from Prague traveled, for example, to northern Bohemia. Others were distributed directly in the place where they were collected, such as around Beroun, Kutná Hora, Strakonice or Vsetín.

Organizers tallied a record total number of 3 873 boxes this season. The boxes were distributed at Christmas parties, during church services, at club meetings and in shelters.

All of the gifts were distributed and reportedly brought joy to the children who received them. "I remember one boy who got a new MP3 player. He could not hide his emotion, he won't be getting any gifts at home. Last Christmas his father passed away and his family is not celebrating Christmas this year. Thanks to Shoe Boxes both he and his younger sibling each got a gift at the drop-in club," a volunteer with the project described her experience. 

Diakonie ČCE, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Děti, Charita, Mikuláš Vymětal, sociální vyloučení, Vánoce



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