Last Friday and Saturday afternoon will be 2 days that I will not forget anytime soon! A few weeks ago I received an email from a blog reader, Andrzej, telling me about a charity here in Poland called Szlanchetna Paczka. Well he is the coordinator for their Adopt-a-Family Christmas program for one of the areas here in Bydgoszcz and want to let me know about the organization and the volunteer opportunities they have. This is an amazing program throughout all of Poland!
The general idea is to help the families in need (22,000+ this year throughout Poland) by organizing packages with various products. Such families are placed in a special database and when this database gets open, everybody can choose a family which they would like to help. The families often have a lot of needs, they are usually helped by organized groups of people (like the people working in the same company, friends, family members etc). They prepare parcels with the necessary products (enlisted in the database). The volunteers are the go-betweens between the families and the people who prepare the parcels for them. So this way the identity of the family is not revealed.
He then told me that I could help in three ways:
1) You may organize a group of your friends or colleagues and choose one family from the database, for which you could prepare the parcel or parcels with some of the most necessary products. I’m sure some of your Polish friends could help you with translating the family description or list of the products that the family needs. I could also do it for you.
2) You may help during the final of this action (7-8 December) by making some… cakes for us – I read you did it back home, successfully I suppose. We would serve the cakes mainly to all the wonderful people who decided to take part in our action and help the people in need (during the final these people bring their parcels to one collection point from which they are shipped to the families, in the collection point they are welcome to have a tea or coffee just to talk about their feelings about what they have been doing).
3) You may also help by transporting the parcels to the families. The parcels must be transported by private cars and they are taken by volunteers who found the families in need. So I look for cars and drivers who are willing to help us in this way during the final (7-8 December).
Do you really think I could pick just 1? Nope, I did all three with my husband!! I also recruited a few friends as well to help sponsor 2 families. Here is a short description of the 2 families that I choose…
1)Lady Eve (66 Years Old) is a widow. Her husband died a few years ago. They had no children.
The cause of difficulty is low retirement and poor health. Ms. Gabriel is suffering from high blood pressure, gout and arthritis and spine. Treatment costs absorb a significant portion of her pension.
Ewa lives alone in a one-room apartment. He shares a kitchen and a bathroom with neighbors. A small pension with subsidized housing and allowance (including 911 zł) after payment of fees for the apartment (300 zł) are insufficient to cover the full life and medicine. Ewa monthly drug spending about 300 zł, so life is 311 zlotys a month. Buy only the most necessary medicines, and yet still lacks the 400 zł for others that should be taken. Among the greatest needs Ewa mentions a warm coat for the winter, and a decent wardrobe, because old is already in a very poor condition. It will also be grateful for the washing powder.
2) Ms. Justyna (43 Years Old) is a single mother who raised five children: Michael (20 years), James (18 Years), Christopher (18 Years Old), Alexander (16 Years Old) and Dorothy ( 13 Years Old).
Mrs. Justin tries to combine work with raising and caring for five children, two of whom have health problems. Michael suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, and Alexander has mental retardation to mild. Despite the difficulties, Ms. Justyna is a cheerful and warm. Free time, which is after the professional and domestic responsibilities, devoted to children.
Six-member family lives in a small two-room apartment. Mrs. Justin is struggling to pay current bills (830 gold). The main source of income families are child support, benefits and salary you Justyna (including 2,780 Polish zlotys). After paying the bills, the family is 325 PLN per person per month.
Among the most important needs of your Justin mentions: chairs, food and cleaning products.
How could you not want to help families like this?
Well Friday morning I cooked 150 cupcakes to bring to share with the volunteers and the donors. Then Friday afternoon my husband and I headed over to where the group was collecting the donations to finally met Andrzej in person as well as met up with 3 of our church missionaries who I also got to volunteer for the group. Well since our van was already full of stuff for the 2 families that we adopted, we went out with their caseworkers and with the missionaries to deliver the goodies. The first apartment, Ms. Ewa, was the most humbling experience I think I have had in long time. This lady was AMAZING!! She welcomed us in like we are family. She even had just cooked a cake for us to say “Thank You!” But when a 66 year old starts to cry because you just gave her 2 boxes of laundry detergent, how can your eyes not start to get watery too? (OK, to be honest my eyes are watery just typing this thinking about her).
The other moment that my husband and I will not forget anytime soon is when we went to another apartment that had a single mother and 2 children, 6 & 4 year olds. The mother opened a HUGE box that was filled with second-hand clothes and on top was a winter jacket for her 6-year-old daughter. When the daughter saw it and touched she just started crying and hugged her mother so hard. (Here I go crying again..I am off to get a tissue so hold on for a second!) Now this was not a new jacket but a gently used one, one that I would have maybe paid $5 for a second-hand store. When a kid starts crying over a jacket, you know you are doing something bigger than you can ever imagine! Friday night we were able to deliver to 5 different families and then on Saturday afternoon I went back and delivered to 5 more families.
All I can say this was the most AMAZING experience that I have had yet here in Poland!
Here are a few pictures of how the 2 days went…..
I just want to say “THANK YOU” to Andrzej for telling me about this program!!! This was an AMAZING experience and I am looking forward to helping again next year!
What is the most humbling experience you’ve had? Mine, I would say this was!