THE kindness of South Lakeland residents has brightened up the lives of more than 7,000 needy children.
Youngsters in Romania, who face a daily struggle for food, warmth and basic education, have been touched by the generosity of thousands of locals who helped to put a Christmas shoebox together.
An eight-strong group from South Cumbria, working on behalf of the charity Teams4U, have just returned from a trip to hand out the boxes in some of the poorest villages in the country.
Kendal resident Amanda Robb, of Aldercroft, who went on the trip, said: "To say they appreciated every gift they received is an understatement.
“A lot of them were simply bewildered by it – they couldn’t comprehend why people in another country would care about them."
The team, working with Romanian charity, People to People, took 7,328 boxes, each of them put together by an individual or group in South Lakeland.
The Hawkshead Brownies rallied the community to fill 700, a group of women in Grange-over-Sands contributed 70 and women in Carnforth have given over 100 every year.
Rosemary Webster, who co-ordinated the effort, said: “There were some groups who gave staggering numbers of boxes, but it would be unfair to focus on them.
“Anyone who gives just one has done something amazing.”
Most of the wrapped and decorated shoeboxes, containing items such as toys, toiletries, sweets and clothes, were handed out to children under the age of 16.
Several boxes were also given to pregnant women, along with hand-knitted baby clothes and basic supplies.
Mrs Robb said: "The things we take for granted meant the most to some of the people we met. They were hungry, cold and poor beyond belief and those boxes will be the best things some of them have ever been given.
"You can tell people but until they've been there, seen it, tasted it and smelled it they can't begin to imagine the poverty.”
But despite the heart-breaking conditions of the villages, Mrs Robb said the trip had some definite highlights - such as coming across the 40 boxes she had helped to put together herself.
"It was magical. I just wish that everyone who put a shoebox together could see it," she said.
To find out more about the group, visit www.teams4u.com