This winter, people across Eastern Europe will be struggling to survive. Thousands of families living in poverty cannot heat their homes or feed their children. Older people will be isolated by the freezing temperatures, unable to access even the most basic essentials. Children will get sick because they lack adequate clothing and footwear, good food, and safe housing. Homeless people risk unimaginable pain and suffering, even death, as the mercury plummets and snow falls.
I will never forget the heartbreaking sight of a homeless man and his dog who had starved and frozen to death being gradually revealed as the thaw came to Moscow one spring. Tragic deaths so easily preventable, for the sake of just a few pounds. Who wouldn't want to send whatever they could to prevent that happening to someone else? Not to mention all the vulnerable children, families and older people who need our support.
So, how can you help? Donate whatever you can to Mission Without Borders' winter campaign. As little as £5 can make a HUGE difference:
- £5 could provide a homeless person with lifesaving winter boots
- £15 could provide warm coats for five vulnerable children
- £30 could pay for emergency overnight shelter for a week
- £50 could provide a family with proper footwear, winter fuel and an emergency food parcel
- £100 could pay for a week's supply of hot meals for older people at a soup kitchen
Many of the people MWB helps wear only cheap plastic sandals and holey socks, simply because they cannot afford anything else. With sub-zero conditions inevitable, this is unsafe, uncomfortable and can have a severe impact on life. Indeed, many of those children who got back to school in September will end up absent again over the winter because they cannot walk through miles of snow to get to their classroom. As well as helping children and families, older people are particularly vulnerable in such extreme conditions, so MWB's partners in the region will be doing everything they can to help.
One family in desperate need of help are the Cuznetovs who live in an isolated rural village in Moldova, where the landscape is obliterated by heavy snowfall and poor conditions for several months of the year. Both parents, Viorica and Vasile, are both from poor backgrounds and have never been able to break the cycle, despite their best efforts. Their home is one room, simply walls and floor, with no heating or even plasterboard or floorboards. It is extremely cold.
With five children, aged 1 to 11, the Cuznetovs are fearful of the winter to come, especially as Pavel, 7, was born with only three heart chambers and experiences health problems. Viorica commented:
"Pavel is a very energetic child. And, as all children are, he wants to run about and play. Many times I notice him suffering when I tell him that he shouldn’t do this. He is not allowed to get the flu because it will complicate his health problems. That it is why he needs to always be warmly dressed, especially in the cold season."
Somehow, the family manages to survive on just 600 lei ($50) a month. Even their own government says that the minimum a family needs to survive in Moldova is 1700 lei ($142) per month, and that is just for food items. With no work available locally, the Cuznetovs raise goats, sheep, hens, keep bees and grow vegetables and fruit for food, but it is not enough to get through the long cold winter.
Last winter, MWB provided the family with warm clothes and shoes. They delivered them on a frosty December day, and found the children sitting down to a meal of boiled buckwheat with salt. There was a layer of ice on the inside of the walls. The children could not go out to play because they did not have winter coats. When given the boxes of winter items, many of which the family had never had before, the parents were speechless and the children wide-eyed in wonder.
Later, their mother enthused:
"It is a great holiday for us to have new winter shoes and jackets for each of us! I didn’t dream that there would be a day when I could give all my children such amazing and much-needed things for winter! It is for the first time my children have NEW clothes and shoes... Only in my dreams I had such amazing things for me and my family. Thank you from the depth of our hearts for all these amazing things. Even their colours are so wonderful!"
Help the Cuznetovs and families like them by donating today.
In Moldova's capital, Chisinau, the Bujac family greeted the news of the impending -17C temperature with fear. Their greatest hope is simply that they will make it through till spring. In the most developed city in the country, this family and others like them struggle to survive from day to day. The Bujac's children's father has succumbed to drugs, sold the family's possessions and left them with nothing. Pregnant with her youngest child, Svetlana had to choose between her children and her husband.
Despite that tough decision, Svetlana continues to do her best for her children, and has taken a job in a shoemaking workshop. Even as a hardworking professional, she can only afford one room, and winter is a constant struggle to provide heating and warm winter clothes. All of the children wear summer shoes during the cold season because they don’t have money to buy warmer boots. Often when they come home their feet are wet and cold and it takes hours to warm them up.
"The thought that the cold season was about to come frightened me. I didn’t know where to find firewood and how to heat our house. We have been thinking with our older kids and decided that Denis and I would go rummage through other people’s rubbish bins and take home anything we could use for heating. A few days later, MWB’s coordinator called and gave us wonderful news - Mission Without Borders will provide us with sawdust briquettes to heat our home. This has been the happiest news I have heard for months. We were very joyful."
Local co-ordinator Iurie talked admiringly of this family's endless courage, their determination to survive and refusal to ‘drown their grief’ in alcohol or drugs. When he asked the children what thye most wanted for Christmas, they said:
“Maybe many children want sweets for Christmas, but our dream is to have a bathroom inside the house.”
Help the Bujacs and families like them by donating today.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the outskirts of the city of Mostar, the Ahmetovics live in a dilapidated house which costs them $70 a month. Only one room is habitable, so the two parents, two children and their grandmother cook, eat, live and sleep in one space. There is a stove, a table, a small couch and a kitchen cabinet in the clean, tidy room, and that is all they have.
Without transport, they are cut off from schools, shops and other institutions. They do not have the tools or seeds to begin growing vegetables on their own plot of land. Their only income comes from the bits of scrap metal Dominik, the father, collects and sells. MWB has provided vital support and supplies to the family, including this bike which Dominik can use to get around, and essential clothes, food and more.
With tears streaming down her face, the mother, Jasna, said:
"We could never even dream of having the things you’ve brought us. There is no way that we can afford them. We struggle to provide food, not to mention everything else. And this hurts. It hurts when you get up and there's no food to give to your kids. There are days when I wish I am dead. It breaks my heart seeing my family facing so many issues and obstacles. We just want to live an ordinary, decent life."
As she opened the food parcel, Jasna's son Baja noticed a bag of macaroni, his favourite food, and literally jumped for joy. The gifts they have received have literally given this family the hope and will to carry on. Their father commented:
"I do not know how we are going to make it. It's getting harder and harder each day. I try hard to be a good dad and provide for my family, but I'm broken. You are the ray of light. You give me hope for a better tomorrow. As long as I see that there are good people like you, I have hope that we're going to make it."
Help the Ahmetovics and families like them by donating today.
As well as providing boots and warm winter clothes, UK charity Mission Without Borders provides urgent material assistance and Christmas joy with its ‘Operation Christmas Love’ scheme. Working in the poorest countries in Europe, they will provide more than 30,000 parcels of essential food items, Christmas decorations and festive treats to people living in some of the worst poverty experienced across the continent.
In Romania, 70% of people in rural locations live below the national poverty line. The vast majority of employment is seasonal, agricultural work and during winter this type of work is scarce. Increased financial burdens and food insecurity mean families are unable to meet their basic needs and the colder months are blighted by hunger and suffering.
MWB has been working in Eastern Europe since the 1960s and has long standing local partnerships, meaning it is able to reach vulnerable people and communities that other organisations and local authorities may be unable to access, including Eastern Europe’s most remote, rural communities and Roma families living in destitution due to social stigma. In recent years the charity has also responded to Europe’s pressing refugee crisis by extending its Operation to support 2,500 refugees from the Middle East.
|Children open their family's MWB Operation Christmas Love parcel|
You can donate to the MWB winter campaign today.