By Stefan J. Bos
With authorities reporting a high number of coronavirus deaths, churches have started reaching out to impoverished children in Hungary.
The Hungarian Baptist charity said it collected nearly 51,000 individual donations wrapped in shoe boxes as Christmas gifts for children from poor families.
He noted that some 10,000 donations had been made in the last two days of the popular Shoe Box campaign, held for the 18th time this year.
Some donated boxes were also sent to Hungarian children in neighboring Romania and Ukraine.
It was a bit of joy for the children, including those who lost their parents, attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.
Authorities say the death toll from the coronavirus is approaching 40,000 out of a population of nearly 10 million. Most are older people with underlying health problems.
However, these figures prompted the Hungarian president and the First Lady to create before Christmas the Regőczi Foundation, named after the Catholic priest István Regőczi.
Throughout his life he cared for orphans, most notably when he saved Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II.
Inspired by the late priest, Hungarian President Janos Ader and First Lady Anita Herczegh said their foundation was providing personalized, long-term support to some 1,000 children orphaned by the coronavirus. They have even collected nearly 1 million euros in recent days in donations via national television.
As faith-based initiatives multiplied, a large chain of stores joined in, supplying the Hungarian Red Cross with some 34 tonnes of goods for some 10,000 people and families in need.
The Red Cross said the goods included durable food, sanitary and hygienic supplies, candy and toys donated by customers at 24 department stores.
Although Hungary is a country of the European Union, it still suffers from the legacy of decades of communist rule and its transition to a market economy.
Critics say that despite the pro-family policies proclaimed by the government, social structures are still lacking in Hungary and other former communist countries, with millions of people still living in poverty.
But organizers suggested that many were encouraged at this weekend’s Christmas charity to stay hopeful regardless of life’s challenges.