FOR the past couple of months, children have been filling shoe boxes with gifts to send abroad to underprivileged children.
One of the charities collecting them is the Rotary Club of Gosport, which ships them to eastern Europe.
At the forefront of the campaign has been chairman Malcolm Dent.
He has just arrived home from a trip accompanying 20,000 shoe boxes from across the south to Albania.
Mr Dent said: ‘This year, to be able to show people how treasured their gifts are, I was tasked with the job of following their progress.
‘Two years ago, Adrian Edgar and I had made a similar trip, but had been foiled by the holding up of lorries on the border.
‘Our eventual destination was the town of Korce, where we would meet members of the local Rotary Club, and both help and document the boxes’ delivery to the many schools scattered around the Korce countryside.
‘The experience that followed was one that will remain with me for many years.
‘The local Rotarians had already contacted the schools to find out how many pupils there were and divided them into sex and age, so they knew how many containers were needed.’
Mr Dent said watching the boxes being given out was ‘magical’.
‘It is hard to imagine, as our children look forward to Father Christmas bringing them an X-box or an iPhone, that millions of children around the world won’t be that lucky,’, said Mr Dent.
‘The simple act they have done in making a gift of a shoebox makes such a difference to a child in another country.
‘Time and again as we moved around the area, visiting children aged from two to 14.
‘There we witnessed the excitement of children eagerly awaiting the present, opening their box, examining the presents within, then gathering with their friends to share the experience of having a toy car, or tennis ball, a doll or a toothbrush.
‘These are things that to us are so ordinary, but to them so special.
‘It was I who was in awe of the difference a small gesture could make. ‘