03:53AM, Saturday 21 January 2012
A charitable grandmother has spent a week handing out gift-filled shoeboxes to underprivileged children in Crimea.
Maggie McPherson travelled to the autonomous region in Ukraine to give out presents collected as part of the Operation Christmas Child scheme.
Some of the thousands of boxes collected by schools, businesses and individuals in Maidenhead were given out on the trip.
The Maidenhead region co-organiser has been involved with the Samaritan's Purse initiative for six years and travelled to Serbia in 2008 to hand out gifts.
Maggie, of Allenby Road, said it was good to see where the shoeboxes end up after being sent overseas.
She said: "The shoeboxes have a real impact on the children and their communities. Children loved receiving them and were very excited.
"They were overwhelmed to know that people in the UK, including many children, make these boxes up for them."
Ten volunteers travelled to Crimea on January 7 coinciding with the region's festive period, as Christmas there is traditionally celebrated around Twelfth Night on January 6.
They visited children in hospital, an orphanage and foster homes, as well as small villages where children and their families live in poverty.
"They would know we were coming so they would sing to us and we would sing to them, which was especially nice as it was Christmas," she said.
"It was extremely encouraging for us to see that they love the presents, especially in the hospital where we saw some very sick children."
The team distributed thousands of the 124,000 boxes planned for the region, and even found small gifts for older siblings and mothers.
Some boxes also contained cards with festive wishes, which were gratefully received by the children.
The former welfare assistant at Newlands Girls' School said: "For them to know that people care about them and send them Christmas wishes and love means a lot to them.
"I just love children and think it's great being able to give them these gifts."
She encouraged people to support the shoebox appeal which runs from October to December each year.
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