Wary and bemused, Madalina squats in the doorway of her home. Who are these people? And what’s in these brightly wrapped boxes that they have brought? It’s December but it doesn’t matter that the door is standing open. The single room has nothing to dispel the cold but the body heat of its occupants – her mother and the six children.
The knitted hat and mitts that Madalina has found in her box will help to warm her up. The sweets will give her energy and the toys will stimulate her hands and her imagination.
For now, the book will remain unread: the little girl is just four and neither she nor her mother can read. But when she finds someone who can, the colourful pictures will help to plant in her mind the story of Samuel, the boy who listened.
“You cannot imagine how the poorest families here live,” says Carmen Popa, who organised distribution of gift-filled boxes from Blythswood’s Shoe Box Appeal. “They have no electricity, no running water, no means of keeping warm and clean.
Come September, four of the children from this family will be enrolled in Talita Kum, Blythswood’s after-school programme for children from low-income homes. “Madalina should be joining us by the time she is seven, if her mother agrees to let her go to school,” Carmen says. “Meanwhile we will visit now and again to give them the help and encouragement they need.”
Photo above: Blythswood’s Shoe Box Appeal delivers a host of new experiences to children like Madalina