Hungarian churches offering Christmas cheer in shoeboxes
By Stefan J. Bos
With authorities reporting a high coronavirus death toll, churches have begun reaching out to impoverished children in Hungary.
The Hungarian Baptist Charity said it collected nearly 51,000 individual donations packed in shoeboxes as Christmas presents to children in poor families.
It noted that some 10,000 donations had poured in the last two days of the popular Shoe Box Campaign, held for the 18th time this year.
Some donated boxes were also sent to ethnic Hungarian children in neighboring Romania and Ukraine.
It was a bit of cheer for children, including those who lost parents, attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Authorities say the coronavirus-related death toll is approaching 40,000 on a population of nearly 10 million people. Most are elderly with underlying health conditions.
However, the figures prompted Hungary’s president and the First Lady to establish ahead of Christmas the Regőczi Foundation, named after Catholic priest István Regőczi.
Throughout his life, he cared for orphans, including when he saved Jewish children from the Nazis in World War Two.
Inspired by the late priest, Hungarian President Janos Ader and First Lady Anita Herczegh said their foundation provides long-term and personalized support to some 1,000 children orphaned by the coronavirus. They even raised nearly 1 million euro in recent days in donations through national television.
With faith-based initiatives mounting, a large chain store joined the effort by providing the Hungarian Red Cross some 34 tonnes of goods for some 10,000 people and families in need.
The Red Cross said the goods include durable food, sanitary and hygienic supplies, sweets, and toys donated by customers in 24 department stores.
Though Hungary is a European Union country, it still suffers from the legacy of decades of Communist rule and its transition towards a market economy.
Critics say that despite proclaimed pro-family policies by the government, social structures are still lacking in Hungary and other former Communist nations, with millions still living in poverty.
But organizers suggested that many were encouraged during this weekend’s Christmas charity to remain hopeful regardless of life’s challenges.