Shoebox Appeal 2023 Delivery Update

This diary is directly from Link to Hope.

This year the Shoebox Delivery Team from Link to Hope consisted of Lisa, Steve, Gill and Vadim.  Every year a small team from the UK go and visit one of their project managers in Eastern Europe and help them deliver shoeboxes.  It’s very important for us Link to Hope a charity to see how the shoeboxes are delivered and to whom. More importantly it is for Link to Hope to be accountable to its supporters about exactly where their shoeboxes have been delivered to.  It is also a great opportunity of capturing the moments of joy through photographs and video and we hope this Shoebox Delivery Diary reflects the happiness that your shoeboxes bring.


After a very early start at Luton Airport and a slight delay at the passport control in Brasov Airport, we were met by our project leader Otto Kardy Kis who we last physically saw 6 years ago.  He drove us through the city pointing out places of interest and up the hill towards the forest and the bears to our home for the next few days.  A fresh bear footprint was found in the snow the next day so we didn’t venture out far.

Vadim Talica, one of our project leaders from Dancu in Moldova, had driven five and a half hours that morning to be with us in Brasov. An amazing photographer we were delighted that he had time to come and help us record the Shoebox Delivery Trip.  The extra plus was that Moldova and Romania speak the same language so Vadim could engage with the people he was taking photos with in their own language. After a cup of tea and a chat we ventured out into the cold and Otto introduced us to the other where we met the other members of the team – Josef and Josh who work alongside Otto.

During the first afternoon we visited the Hope Without Limits store room where they showed us a recent delivery of medical equipment from the UK.  There are so many disabled people in the community who have no support and unlike the UK they don’t have a NHS supplying them equipment to be able to improve their lives.  Otto and his team want to be able to hire our equipment to those that are able to pay and give equipment to those that can’t.  The team are love in action.  We met Romica who had lost a leg.  Otto has recently rescued him from a bus station after he lost his leg and his job and ended up with nothing.  He was sleeping day and night on a bench with no-one to help him.  He nows helps out at the centre and goes to the Hope group for adults with disabilities on a weekly basis.

We then paid a quick visit to a family who had been evicted from their derelict building along with five other families.  The only offer they had, was to go and live in a corrugated shed in the middle of a field.  The mother was ill and lying on a mattress, there were two boys – 10 and 14 and a father.  A farmer had let them use him old tool shed.  It was extremely cold.  We promised to return with shoeboxes and some practical help.

We then went to a house with eight older children whose parents had left years before when they were all very young.  There were only two people in the house when we visited however they took the shoeboxes with delight.  They had been given very little of the years and were very surprised to see us.

Then we climbed a steep hill to visit a mother with 8 children and their neighbours who had a new born baby.  Unfortunately on the way down I slipped and grabbed a jagged metal fence which cut my finger deeply enough to have to be hauled off the hospital for stitches and tetanus jab.  All is well now.  I was particularly moved by the amount of people that tried to help and offer me rags to bind my finger. Fortunately Steve grabbed the first aid kit.


We were picked and taken to Garcin the largest Roma village in Eastern Europe.  Ottos church have been working with particular families and the first we visited were the three sisters who had been living in squalid conditions. The church helped move them to a one roomed house, simple but warm.  Two were disabled and the one sister who isn’t goes and gets the food.  However there is only one set of shoes between the three of them! Fortunately Otto has a shoes project and he is going to help them with more sets of shoes.

We visited Dorina the elderly lady who we chatted to through the window.  She had looked after her daughter for 30 years who had now died. The daughter had been bedridden and they had not been able to change the sheets for three years.  Dorina was now on her own and struggling and Otto and his team stepped in to replace the mattress and bedding etc so that Dorina could use the bed again.

We visited many other families all with problems and health conditions and also some very kind gestures. Sasha who has three disabled children he is looking after– one his own and two others who he has adopted.  He also has two daughters.  An elderly lady makes wreathes to sell to raise funds but insisted on giving one to Gill to thank her for the shoebox. We gave your shoeboxes out to so many people and here are just a few of the photos.


Our first stop was with Peter and Maria who are the caretakers for 20 years of the storage units that Hope Without Limits use.  They are allowed to live there in return for looking after the place but they are getting older so they do not know what will happen when they are too old to do the role. They kindly gave us poppy cake as a thank you for their shoeboxes!

Next we visited Irena who sat on the bed with Steve and was absolutely delighted that she had so many visitors in her home.  Widowed for 22 years, she had become more and more disabled and now struggles to walk with two sticks.

We visited an elderly lady called Kate who had been the lady who welcomed Otto when he first came to Sacele – she is a prayer warrior!  She also has a bed and a mattress supplied to her so that she is able to get herself out of bed using the hoist.

The next house belonged to Ezolda who has missing fingers, no electricity and no sanitation. When she was first discovered the stove was faulty and the house had filled up with smoke. Ezolda was wearing her smartest clothes for our visit however when we entered her house we saw a different story.  It was pitched black and she lives in one room to keep warm.  She has an abusive son who is an alcoholic and can become violent. She used to live in the back room but when we went in it was freezing and damp.  Steve decided to be useful and chopped up some wood for her.  Otto tried to fix her roof which leaked and Peter put a new handle on the stove for her to make sure it didn’t fill the house with smoke again .

We visited a grandfather who lives in one room with his wife, his daughter, his son in law and his grandchild.  The room measured 4 m x 4m and there was a tiny bathroom to one side.  Compounding their misery, was that they were even being evicted from that one room in March 2024 because the landlord wants it back.  The do not know where they will go.

As promised we returned to visit the family living in the tool shed in the field.   We came with a stove and some wood.  Steve helped put the stove together while Gill entertained the incredibly happy and talkative ten year old boy of the family.  Lots of actions as they didn’t understand a word the other was saying.  Otto and his team chopped up the firewood and built the chimney to go inside the shed to let the smoke out of.  Although part of us was thinking wouldn’t it better to move them out rather than put a stove in, the sheer difficulty of finding other accommodation meant that this was the only option which at least would keep them warm in the shorterm.

We gave each of the child a shoebox – we felt they deserved it – and watched as they opened the boxes and gasped and smiled at every gift.  The older boy who was 14 found a calculator in his box and had to try to keep it out of his younger brothers clutches.  Presents for mum and dad in the form of a beautiful scarf and a tape measure which was immediately used to measure up for a replacement door.  Both children attend school and that is one of the reasons they have to stay in the area as they don’t want them to lose their places.  We were very humbled.

We then went onto a place where the shed family used to live near and some of the other families had moved onto.  Lovely smiley children and grateful parents who couldn’t have dreamed that they would be given such a present at Christmas time.  Unfortunately their time is also limited as their accommodation is being demolished to make way for a hypermarket very soon.

We then drove to a more built up area nearer the town and visited families in flats and one rooms.  We found a father going through the rubbish trying to find something to eat.  Imagine his surprised when Otto arrived and gave him a shoebox for his children.  We then met Nelu a lovely man who has never recovered from losing his wife and lives alone.

As the light was dimming Otto spotted a lady on the street, weighed down by a heavy bag and it was the lady he had been looking for.  Her name was Monica and she was more intent on seeing that we had a large vehicle and insisting we give her a lift up the hill.  So we squeezed her in and drove her to where she lived. We were greeted by lots of dogs and some cats.  These are her only company and family and the heavy bag contained food for her animals.  Generally she begs for food and asks for out of date meat for the dogs. The house looked derelict and the dog flap was half the door cut away.  However she appreciated the shoebox and hopefully there was something in there for herself.

Day 4

First stop was to meet a wonderful family who had suffered a series of tragedies over the years.  There first born was a little girl who was severely disabled and dies at 2 ½ years old.  Their second child Paul now  10 years old was born even more severely disabled and survived.  He was asleep when we arrived after being given medicine by his mum. The bright spot on the horizon is that decided to adopt a little girl from the Roma community who had no family.  She is called Valentina and is delight and brings much happiness to the family.

We went onto a man called Martin next. Severely crippled and on crutches, his mum had died about one year ago. The mum was called Valerica and had clearly done everything for him. To the point that now he was on his own he struggled to cook and care for himself.  There was also the other matter of there being no running water in the house.  As we walked around the garden we saw a well that Martin had to try to use for his water supply.  It can be difficult to fill a bucket from a well at the best of times but to do it when you have difficulty standing is quite another thing.

The residents of a care home were waiting for us.  The were all lined up in the corridor as we arrived and were wearing masks which most of them ignored and kept taking off.   They sang to us and Otto told them the story of Christmas and how it involved lots of strangers from the UK sending them gifts of love in the form of shoeboxes. One lady cried because she had found a pair of glittery socks in her box and she was so grateful.  Another lady fell in love with the little furry black and white cat that she found in her box, so you can never tell what people will like from the gifts they are given.

We briefly visited the HOPE group which is made up of adults with disabilities and helpers.  This would have been an impossible group to imagine not so long back where people with disabilities are valued rather than being hidden away and shameful.  They were rehearsing their nativity play and being given shoeboxes the following week at their Christmas party so we left and went to our last stop which was a school.

This particular school was a Hungarian one and was full of children from very poor and marginalized familes.  There were together in an after school club and we had to put the shoeboxes in the window to get them into the classroom.  Although they were wearing good clothes, as we have know from past visits, they go home to poor housing and change into their old clothes to wear the good set to school the next day.  As the light was fading we came to the end of our shoebox trip for another year.

Every year we give out just some of the many thousands of shoeboxes we are entrusted with.  It is indeed a privilege to do so and be your hands and feet when we hand the boxes over to people living very different lives to the ones most of us do.  You can feel helpless or you can feel that you are at least giving joy and showing love, even for a short while to those that need it.

Thank you to everyone that made a shoebox for us, donated, knitted, created, prayed, packed, drove, gifted, sacrificed and co-ordinated for us.  We simply couldn’t do it without you.

For more photos from the Shoebox Delivery Trip please go to  Shoebox Appeal Delivery Photos – Gallery 1  and Shoebox Appeal Delivery Photos – Gallery 2

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