Border blocks put in place by several of the Balkan countries have made it impossible for refugees to continue their journeys. Camps, like Gevgelija in southern Macedonia, which were designed to provide basic support to refugees are bursting at the seams.
An increasingly desperate situation
Nearly 1 million refugees and migrants have made the perilous journey from their homes in Africa and the Middle East to Europe this year. The majority of them are fleeing war, violence and oppression.
As winter sets in, the situation is deteriorating. While many families across Macedonia and Europe are preparing for a warm and cosy Christmas period with family and friends, refugee families are facing a time of uncertainty and cold.
"Maybe the children won't be sad if they know we care about them!"
Every Christmas, children at SOS Children’s Villages in Macedonia receive lots of presents from their SOS mothers, relatives and friends in the Village. This year, Aleksander asked if he could give some presents to some of the sad children he’d seen on TV. “Maybe the children won’t be sad if they know we care about them!”
Aleksander knows about sadness – he grew up in difficult circumstances without the care, love and support he needed. But today he is happy, safe and secure thanks to his SOS mother Natasha.
He loves living at SOS Children’s Village Skopje. One of his favourite things to do is take the family dog, Eric, for long walks with his friends Jovanka and Irina. It is on one of these long walks that Aleksander thought how nice it would be for refugee children to receive gifts this Christmas.
Together the three children went into their local town to choose the gifts they wanted to send. They chose four knitted hats, two cuddly animals, a dinosaur and a toy car. “Whoever gets this toy car is so lucky,” says Aleksander happily. “I hope this teddy bear goes to a little girl,” says Irina. “That way she will know that I love her as my number one friend!”
When the presents are wrapped the children decide to write some cards to go with them. The children have lots of questions: who to address the cards to? Should they mention Christmas given that lots of the refugee children don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus? Where have the children come from?
Irina wrote a card to go with the teddy bear. It reads: “To my new friend from Syria, I’m sending you a precious gift. I want you to play with it and take it everywhere with you. I wish you a Happy New Year 2016 and I hope Santa Claus brings you many presents.”
Jovanka’s card goes with a cuddly puppy.
She says: “Hi, I am Jovanka and I would like you to be able to get to your new, loving home quickly. I picked out your gift myself. Even though we cannot play together with it, at least you can play with the puppy.”
“I hope the children like what we’ve chosen,” worries Aleksander as he gives the carefully wrapped presents to the SOS co-worker who will be delivering them. “But what I really wish for is that all their wishes come true.”
To be continued....find out how the gifts were received in next week’s article!
We are providing care and support to refugee families, pregnant women and unaccompanied children in Macedonia. Find out more about what we're doing to help the refugee crisis.