It is quiet outside,
Stars above are shining.
We are waiting out for
Saint Nicholas coming!
Christmas holidays are a special time for Caritas staff, especially for those who work with children. For this time of a year they become St. Nicholas assistants and try to engage as many caring people as possible to bring joy and happiness to children who often face not only the bright side of life. All national representative offices of Caritas prepared celebrations for people in need, some offices organized individual projects which attracted benefactors, built partnership and drew up creative and unusual approaches.
Children from regions close to the war zone and IDP’s families were espacially looking forward to St. Nicholas coming as they really miss celebrations. Not only the staff of centres located close to the conflict zone was engaged in activities, but joint projects were also implemented, which is an important step in development of mutual understanding and peacemaking. Long and thorough preparation, coordination of activities, anticipation, and finally the celebration for Caritas Mariupol children was held. The support and help of caring people from Kolomyia and the congregation of Kolomyia-Chernivtsi Eparchy to Caritas Kolomyia staff in organizing celebrations for children was extremely important. Bikes, easels, roller-blades, clothes, footwear, toys, sweets were presented to more than 200 children from Mariupol and neighbouring villages. Caritas Khmelnytskyi staff collected and gave presents to kids from Volnovakha.
Within “We make believe in miracles” project, initiated by Caritas Kramatorsk, children from the buffer zone in Donetsk region received presents from secret benefactors on St. Nicholas day. Kids wrote letters with their dreams, and adults could choose any of them to make them come true. 380 letters were received, and all children got presents they desired. However, not only citizens of Kramatorsk fulfilled kids’ wishes. A part of gifts for children in Novoluhanske was collected by pupils from Educational complex Sofiya in Sofiivska Borschahivka village of Kyiv region. It is extremely nice that Caritas good initiative could unify communities, people and caring hearts to experience miracles together. An unforgettable celebration was prepared for kids in Luhanske. An interactive lesson devoted to good and bad deeds was delivered in a happy atmosphere, followed by competitions, funny dancing and contests where kids received many different presents.
All Caritas staff was guided by an important principle of promoting traditions of charity and engaging as many caring people as possible. Caritas Lviv has been carrying out “Be a helper of St. Nicholas” initiative for the fourth consecutive year. Letters-drawings to St. Nicholas from the wards, disabled kids and kids from poor and big families, families of ATO veterans and IDPs, were posted in social networks. Benefactors chose a letter they liked and made children’s dreams come true, though it was not always that easy. During the holidays, more than 200 wishes were fulfilled by secret St. Nicholas. In Kharkiv, preparations started in autumn. Information on “St. Nicolas coming” initiative was posted online and promoted by volunteers in educational centres, companies and organizations. The cooperation of different social projects of Caritas Kharkiv helped 250 children from disadvantaged families to receive gifts. Caritas Kyiv with the assistance of benefactors prepared more than 2300 presents for deprived children not only from Kyiv, but from different parts of Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, Cherkasy and Chernihiv regions.
Involvement of companies was also an important contribution, which is becoming more and more popular among business structures, proving the efficiency of Caritas fundraising strategies. We were supported by METRO Cash&Carry, Uber, Leboutique and Pharmaceutical Firm Darnitsa. “I am St. Nicholas” initiative, organized jointly by a group of parents “Kind planet” and “Med-service” pharmacy network, was rather significant. Its main goal was to support kids with special needs, suffering from ICP, Down’s syndrome, autistic disorder. Pharmacies sold charity postcards. Raised money was used to buy presents and other necessary stuff for more than 200 families raising special needs children.
Sometimes cooperation might be rather substantial even if it is not expressed in monetary terms. Lviv amateur theatre “Panacea”, whose actors are staff of the pharmaceutical company PJSC Galychpharm, played Pippi Longstocking for the youth with special needs of the Leisure and social rehabilitation centre. Representatives of a local centre for volunteer rescuers, trained under Maltese relief service program, became St. Nicholas assistants for Caritas Zaporizhzhya. Students of Mariupol State University were St. Nicholas’ right hand and prepared a play “Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka”, interesting contests and even disco for children. Traditionally in Kharkiv, volunteers-students of Kharkiv National Pedagogical University helped St. Nicholas. Future social counsellors learnt by doing how to bring people happiness!
During holiday time, different entertainment activities were organized for kids. Caritas St. Nicholas went to children who were eagerly waiting for him. Celebrations in Caritas Kyiv were held in stages to allow more than 200 children join them. To get presents, 60 pupils from Children and Youth Social Centre in Lviv had to do their best to win a quest game. In Ternopil, St. Nicholas with assistance of Caritas staff and students of the Pedagogical University presented gifts for 300 kids. Zaporizhizhya organized a huge holiday concert “Gifts from St. Nicholas” which was visited by more than 500 wards of Caritas local projects – disabled children, kids from large families, families of IDPs and ATO soldiers, and families in difficulties. Kids from “Children’s space” at Caritas Donetsk in Dnipro met St. Nicholas with the presentation of their skills, acquired in the centre. They sang songs and recited poems, played the saxophone and pipe, and then had tea with sweets.
St. Nicholas does not forget those who cannot visit the celebration. 22 children with special needs (ICP, autism, Down’s syndrome, etc.) experienced the New-Year’s wonder. Within the framework of the charity project, Caritas Dnipro staff brought generous gifts from St. Nicholas to every house. Gifts were individually prepared for each child: sets for arts and crafts, sweets, books, a scarf/hat, backpack/bag, toys and the Christmas candle. Happy children and their parents gave benefactors their excitement, smiles and embraces.
Not only Caritas wards wait for presents, but children in orphanages too. Caritas Khmelnytskyi staff implemented “Letters to St. Nicholas” charity initiative. Three orphanages in Khmelnytskyi region and two in Ternopil region were visited under the initiative. Kindness of its participants made dreams of 700 children come true. Caritas Mariupol prepared a celebration in a local puppet theatre for children from the Boarding school for orphans No. 2. ‘Can anything be better than happy eyes of children, their excitement and faith in miracles. We were lucky to feel it while acting as St. Nicholas right hand for the past few days. We delivered and personally presented gifts to every child who had written a letter a month before and was eagerly waiting for the present. Dreams of children came true, and we are happy to share this honourable mission of making them real’, an employee at Caritas Khmelnytskyi says.
Everybody sings the Christmas carol “Who loves St. Nicholas”. And it is true that not only kids wait for the holidays. Caritas Drohobych did not forget about it and organized a stage show with the participation of people with special needs, children from the youth centre, old people from the “Living history” club and wards of the “Development of the volunteer movement to assist former victims of totalitarianism” project. The show was full of positive emotions, joy and warmth. Everybody went back to times when they were looking forward to this holiday. This occasion unified everybody and filled with inspiration for new meetings.
‘Every child, every our ward, felt that St. Nicholas did not forget about them and brought sweets and other gifts they were waiting for. With the assistance of many people and benefactors, joy and faith in St. Nicholas miracles will stay in children’s hearts. Let’s spread good to change the world. We invite everybody to help hungry and cold people, those who have nothing to wear or try to find a cent to buy vital medicine’, Director of Caritas Kyiv, Roman Syrotych says.