The light of love and hope
On Christmas Eve we light a Caritas candle as a symbol of our unity with those in need. When we light it we offer others some part of our hearts and warmth. On the first Sunday of Advent we initiate the 15th edition of the Christmas Aid to Children, which this year has the motto ‘Be witnesses of love.’
For the tenth times this project is of ecumenical character and is a common action of the charities: Caritas of the Catholic Church, Eleos of the Orthodox Church and the Ministry of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession. The Ministry of the Reformed Protestant Church has officially joined the action for the first time. Caritas Polska is going to distribute over 4 million candles, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession will distribute 15,000 and the Orthodox Church – 14,000. The Christmas Aid to Children was launched in 1994 when candles were distributed for the first time. In the year 2000 the initiative assumed ecumenical character. Every year candles reach more and more Polish people in the country and abroad – in Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, the United States, Ireland as well as in Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine.
‘This year we want to turn social attention to the problem of natural orphanage and first of all, to social orphanage’, says Fr Zbigniew Sobolewski, the secretary of Caritas Polska. ‘It is estimated that there are almost 25,000 children in 24- hour care centres. There are over 700 centres for orphans, run by state institutions and non-governmental organisations, religious congregations and other authorised organs. The monthly cost of care for a small child in an orphanage is 5,000 zloty and the cost of care for older children is between 2,200 and 4,200 zloty. The number of employees in such houses amounts to 11,000, including 4,000 educators. The total amount for a child living in a family children’s house is only 1,300 zloty, out of which ca. 550 zloty is spent on food, clothes, education, holiday, and the remaining sum is the salary of the tutors, insurance, bills, etc. In Poland there are ca. 700 institutions of various kinds that can provide 24-hour care for children who have been left by their parents’, Fr Sobolewski informs.
For children in Sudan
The other important problem, which this Christmas Aid to Children is dedicated to, is the situation of children in Sudan. There both children and adults face death because of drought and hunger and above all, military conflicts between the south and the north of Sudan. According to the UN only in 2009 over 2,000 people have been killed in Sudan and 250,000 have lost their homes. ‘Children are most defenceless and endangered to various diseases and starvation. You cannot prevent it all the time because they come to us when it is too late. Nevertheless, we do our best: provide food, give vitamins, iron. You can often see these children eating the clay brought from the Nile as our Polish children eat chocolate. It is a sign of starvation, lack of vitamins and iron in the organism. So you must firstly save the lives of these children and then think about their future’, says Sr. Lucja, a missionary in Sudan.
The symbolism of light and darkness serves to understand the idea of the Christmas Aid to Children. Light is associated with hope and love. The candle is a sign of readiness to share merciful love with those who cannot enjoy Christmas fully: with poor children, victims of natural disasters, orphans. Apart from collecting funds for the needy the aim of the Christmas Aid to Children is to make us aware of the situation of poor children or those children who need support. We can put candles in the Advent wreath at home or light them during the supper on Christmas Eve or put on the graves of our dearest dead. The time of Advent is a time of reflection and a good moment to think what we can do for others. Buying the Christmas candles we help children. The Christmas Eve candles can be bought throughout Advent in every parish of the above-mentioned communities. You can also support the work by sending an SMS ‘I help’ to 72902 (price – 2.44 zloty with VAT) or phoning 704-207-401 (price – 2.48 with VAT). The money will be given to the diocesan Caritas centres. Some will be sent to the Parish Caritas Teams. Caritas gives 0,10 zloty from every candle to the projects of helping children abroad. Fr Marian Subocz, the director of Caritas Polska, says, ‘So far we have provided food for children as well as money for their education and treatment in Rwanda, Congo, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Iraq, Sudan and Chechnya. Last year Caritas sent 367, 900 zloty for children in Cameroon, Rwanda, Congo and Sudan.’