By Andy Hirst

Huddersfield Hub readers rallied round an appeal to help children living in dire poverty this Christmas.

The annual Meltham Shoebox Campaign had appealed to readers to help donate items for the shoeboxes filled with gifts … and you responded in fine style.

It means the campaign based at St James’ Church in Meltham Mills is sending 3,543 shoeboxes to deprived youngsters this year – that’s 1,000 more than last year.

Each box is different and the kind of things that can go in them include toys, toothbrush and toothpaste, a hairbrush, comb, hair accessories, soap and facecloth, notebook, pencils, rubbers, crayons, gloves, hat and scarf, new socks and underwear, a small game, puzzle, a small rubber ball, sweets and a small Christmas decoration.

Meltham Shoebox Campaign media officer Christopher Dronsfield said: “Thanks for your support through Huddersfield Hub for which we are really grateful. We have been encouraged by the number of people who have told us that they had seen the online article and responded in such a positive way.

“But our thanks to you isn’t just from myself and our team at Meltham because it also comes from 3,543 children across in Eastern Europe. It will probably be the only gift that they will receive this Christmas.

“We are really pleased with this year’s total which is brilliant bearing in mind that our campaign has still been affected by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are so grateful to the people of Kirklees and further afield across Yorkshire for their kind generosity in enabling us to achieve such a wonderful result.

“The cartons containing the shoeboxes will be transported by road and sea to children in Eastern Europe over the coming couple of weeks.”

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The shoeboxes are going to the eastern European countries of Romania, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

They are sent to children who have lost parents or been abandoned, to those without homes, some who have been forced to leave their homes due to conflict and those who face discrimination in their own countries and are forced to live on the outskirts of their societies.

In Belarus more than 20,000 children live as registered orphans and are cared for by the government in institutions that house between 100 and 150 children. Many have additional physical or learning needs and few are ever adopted.

Christopher added: “These gifts don’t fix the problems in their lives but they make a difference, showing these children that someone, somewhere cares for them.

“Each box is just a gift to brighten their day and make them feel special. We are all doing our best to give a child a reason to smile.”

The work packing and organising the boxes is done by around 100 kind-hearted volunteers in Meltham and the campaign began in earnest on November 1.

The Meltham campaign now comes under a larger charity called T4U (Teams For You) set up in Wrexham, North Wales, by founder Dave Cooke. In 2019 T4U sent 64,061 shoeboxes and 48,756 last year despite Covid. Since 2013 it has sent more than 221,000.

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The shoeboxes are packed into large cardboard boxes which contain about 12 shoeboxes each. The large boxes are loaded onto large lorries and taken to ports for transport across the North Sea. The boxes then travel by road to their destination with T4U contacts in the countries making sure they get to the children who need them most.

* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content ANDY HIRST who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.