I do not recall, for a very long time, being so pleased we are at the end of a year. Well, just another 31 days to go in 2020!
What a year it has been! Extraordinarily tough, and in many instances, extremely sad. A year ago, we barely knew what COVID-19 was, but in a very short time, we have discovered how devastating it has been – taking life while destroying jobs and economies around the world. 2020 is a year I personally will be pleased to see end.
I receive regular mailings from the ‘UK 3rd Sector’ serving all the charities registered in the United Kingdom. Normally, it is an encouraging and informative mailing, which when I had time, enjoyed reading. Most of this year, it has been positively disheartening and even depressing to see the weekly headlines sent by Civil Society –
Of course, Churches and Ministries have also been hit hard, certainly the Smiles Foundation has needed to take into serious account the impact of COVID and the associated restrictions. NO Mission Trips being the biggest impact, but NO Dezna Camps and NO school, nursery or after-school programs and even NO Church for long periods in the year. Limitations on how we could serve those we seek to help and minister to has presented a real challenge, but I am delighted how the Smiles Team in Romania have managed and have done, beyond what at times I thought was remotely possible.
A lot of that success is down to the support and encouragement we have received throughout the year from you – our loving Smiles family and faithful supporters. Some for many years, some of you stepped up this year due to the extreme challenges we faced. Thank you to everyone for getting us this far. I pray and believe 2021 will be better – but we have another 31 days to face this year and there is still much to be done.
Many of our plans for 2020 have been postponed due to COVID but in particular, due to having no Mission Teams this year. Various projects that were scheduled have not been possible due to lack of people. We had scheduled in May to build a house for a very poor family of a mother and 3 daughters. They currently live in a metal 6 metre/20-foot Container. As each of the planned Construction Trips in 2020 got cancelled, the building of their new home was also constantly postponed.
In the summer, we had planned to attempt installing a Playground in the Rapa Community. Money for the equipment had been raised, but teams were needed to provide the labour. No teams in 2020 means we still have no playground for Rapa!
And our residents in the Care Homes have really missed our visitors, even asking “Why is no one coming to see us?” So sad, but as the year has progressed, they have understood all too well why people are not able to come.
Although I have many disappointments with what was NOT possible this year, I need your help to ensure this month, and particularly as we draw close to Christmas, we don’t miss out on sharing the Good News of our Saviour’s Birth through Acts of Love with those we serve. No Teams this month means we will not be able to do our SOS (Sack of Smiles) distribution as we normally would. Those who have been on our Christmas Trips know how much work is involved in packing the sacks and delivering them at special presentations throughout Smiles projects. We will not be able to do that this year.
BUT – we have a plan and I need your help and support to ensure it can happen.
We are aware, with long periods of no school or after-school programs – the children have missed the good regular food they received through our projects. Many of those from the poorer families, which in Smiles case is actually the majority of kids, have not eaten so well this year. Healthy and nutritious food has been in short supply!
We want to change that this Christmas. Through our new US Development Ambassador, Jim Dodd, who I’ll be officially introducing you to in our January update, I was introduced to an organisation called ‘Food for Kidz’. They produce highly fortified and nutritious food packs that are used in America and around the world, to feed hungry kids. I thought if we could get a good supply of these Food Packs, we could feed a lot of hungry kids here in Romania.
So, as I am prone to do, I stepped out in faith and ordered 6,480 meals. They are being flown in from America and will be available for use and distribution from early December. We plan to use a huge number of packs preparing meals in our Centres for the Kids to come and enjoy or for our team to deliver them to communities. These special packs of Rice and Beans just need hot water added to make a tasty meal for a hungry child.
We want to have many lunches provided during December, especially as School is once again cancelled in Romania and children are suffering on all sorts of levels. We also plan to put packs of the food in our Christmas Food Parcels we are committed to delivering to Families we support before Christmas. All this needs your help and support.
Maria also wants to make up for a disappointing year by giving every child a chocolate, some fresh fruit and some candies. Not quite the SOS, but a small way towards it. We all, as I’m sure you do, want to make the final celebration of 2020, which hasn’t had much to celebrate for sure, as special as we can for those who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the virus and restrictions we have all lived with this year.
So, bottom line is, I need about £6,000 ($7,800) for the budget to do the Feeding Program and Special Gifts this month. Please help if you can with your regular SOS support or a special Gift for our 2020 Feeding Program. Hundreds of satisfied tummies will thank you!
We had some great ‘virtual’ get togethers in recent months. I hope those who were part of them, really enjoyed the occasions.
In October we had our second ‘Smiles Open House’ which was just wonderful to see so many people excited about the News from Smiles. Then in November, we’ve had the Mission Trip Zoom meeting with a great number interested in our plans for 2021. I so appreciated the lovely comments I had following that meeting. Also, in November, we held our second Prayer Gathering, of those wanting to pray for the needs within Smiles. The Prayer group are committed to meeting each month, the next meeting scheduled for December 21st. I know that’s close to Christmas, but we will have news to Give Thanks for and specific prayer items for the coming year. If you were part of either of our first two meetings, you are on the list to receive the new Zoom ID each time. If you haven’t joined us yet, but would like to – just e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll ensure you get the details. Look forward to seeing you on December 21st!
As many of you will know, all through this challenging year, I have been working, along with the Trustees, Dawn, Luke and Executive Management Team in Romania on the future objectives I established through a Strategic Review on Smiles for the next decade. That is complete, and despite all the pressures of recent challenges, we have all been working very hard to have the Plan ready to share with you come January 2021. I assure you, there are a lot of exciting developments to share which I will do in January’s New Year Update. We will then endeavour to have many of the ideas in place by March next year. With your help and continued commitment, I am confident we will have an amazing decade to look forward to.
That new decade is soon to start, but we still have those 31 days to see out for this year. We count heavily on your continued prayers and support. If you can possibly manage a special end of year gift for Smiles, we would greatly appreciate your support, especially as we prepare after such a tough year, for the historically difficult months of January & February. We hope and pray things on all fronts will be improving by March next year, but to help us get there, your end of year gift will be invaluable. May God truly bless you for your faithfulness and generosity.
Please do keep in touch and I pray you know God’s blessings in your life and family at this special time of year. Even after such a difficult year, let’s be sure to Give Thanks for the birth of Christ who brought light and love to this world that is still, over 2,000 years later, in such desperate need of both.
Thank you for helping the Smiles Foundation share His Light and Love.
Chief Executive to
The Smiles Foundation
PS. Every few years, our publishing of the Website Update coincides with other important events. This year, our update is on a Tuesday – and for 2020 – it’s GIVING TUESDAY. www.givingtuesday.org.uk
If you would like to make today special with a Gift to Smiles, thank you.
And, don’t forget, as Christmas Gifts are bought this year, more on line than ever, you can give to the Smiles Foundation without it costing you a penny extra! Purchase through smile.amazon.co.uk and have Amazon make a donation to Smiles. No extra cost to you whatsoever.
For 100s of other shops including Ebay and John Lewis, sign up via Give As You Live and choose The Smiles Foundation as your supported charity.