Each winter for the past decade, volunteers from across the country have spent their holiday vacations in Eastern Europe with Houston-based Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI), the overseas division of BCFS, distributing snow boots, thick socks, hats and scarves to orphans. The warm wear protects against painful frostbite that is common during the harsh winter months.
This year, volunteers from Texas, West Virginia, Alabama and Virginia delivered the winter-wear to nearly 3,000 residents living in government-run orphanages and homes for the physically and developmentally disabled in the country of Transniestria.
In addition to meeting the physical needs of the country’s children and destitute, CERI uses the trip to bring hope to an often-forgotten and sometimes mistreated population. At each facility, volunteers take turns sharing their personal stories and reasons for volunteering.
At one particular orphanage with more than 200 children of all ages, a CERI volunteer and student from Mary-Hardin Baylor shared her personal testimony. She spoke of a father she never knew who left her mother before she was born, and the questioning and grief she carried as a child because of it.
“There was not a dry eye in the place as she described the hope she found when she discovered her faith,” said CERI Project Director Russ Massey. “Often children in these orphanages wonder how Americans can relate to what they have experienced, but each year we witness how love transcends cultural and geographical barriers in unique ways.”
Shoe missions to Transniestria and Moldova began in 1999 when a mission team from Kingwood First Baptist Church noticed widespread frostbite on the feet of orphans throughout the country. Since then, CERI has provided more than 83,000 new winter boots and socks to protect the region’s most vulnerable. Today, every orphan in Moldova and Transniestria has received a new pair of boots thanks to CERI and its faithful supporters.
“For children who are told how to spend every moment of every day, being able to have something of their very own means the world to them,” said Leslie Mitchell, BCFS Senior Program Director of Residential Services and CERI volunteer. “We made sure each child got the opportunity to pick out their own boots, socks, hat and scarf.”
CERI relies on the help of volunteers and generous contributors not only to protect these children from illness, but to also secure a future for them as they are released into the world at the young age of 15. To make a difference in the life of a child or young adult in Moldova, please become a sponsor by visiting www.CERIKids.org.