YOUNGSTERS in Belarus will be smiling this Christmas thanks to the people of South Tyneside.
A total of 9,309 shoeboxes full of Christmas gifts and treats are on their way to the country’s capital of Minsk – more than 1,700 miles away.
The special festive gifts were collected through the Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal, which is run every year by the Samaritan’s Purse.
This week, a lorry carrying the gifts set off from Holystone Industrial Estate, in Argyle Street, Hebburn.
Project co-ordinator Carol Hall thanked everyone who chipped in to the collection.
She said: “The total is just fantastic and it’s more than I ever expected to get in this current economic climate.
“It’s been a fantastic effort between the people of South Tyneside and Gateshead and we’re really thankful to everyone who has helped.
“The firemen from Hebburn Watch come down to help pack the lorry, the children from St Aloysius’ school choir came to sing, and children from Abacus Nursery and Epinay School, as well as the Mayor of South Tyneside, Coun Fay Cunningham, came to wave off the lorry.”
Mrs Hall added: “We’ve put smiles on 9,000 youngsters’ faces who otherwise would have not got anything for Christmas.
“We need to thank all of our volunteers who have helped us from September and all the schools, churches, and individuals who have made a box or helped put towards one.
“It was quite emotional when the lorry pulled away. We were all filling up. This really will make a huge difference to those children.”