A warmer New Year's Day for some deserving kids

Kyrgyzstan, January 4, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Patrick Eckford/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Patrick Eckford/Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Patrick Eckford/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Patrick Eckford/Mercy Corps

A big "RAHMAT" — "thank you" in the Kyrgyz and Uzbek languages — to our donors who helped us respond to the crisis in Kyrgyzstan! I got to play 'Grandfather Frost' (Santa Claus) on your behalf last week and want you to know how much your generosity meant to some very special kids here in Southern Kyrgyzstan.

During the violent events of last June here in Kyrgyzstan, hundreds of families lost their homes and possessions to fire and looting. In spite of some interim progress to provide victims with basic shelter and food to get through the winter, many other critical needs remain unaddressed.

So, when our Mercy Corps team in Osh learned that your fundraising pages had raised $9,252 to help with the emergency response, we turned directly to the impacted communities in Osh to ask them what they needed most. Even though the area experienced a milder than usual fall, everyone knew that winter would soon arrive with a vengeance. Parents, teachers and local leaders were all very worried that the most impacted kids lacked proper clothing to get through the winter; they especially needed winter coats.

Many of these children lost a parent or family member to the violence and most lost their homes and possessions to fire. We even heard that in some families the children had been sharing coats in shifts — one child going to school at a time because they didn’t have enough coats to go around!

So our procurement team kicked into high gear. We partnered up with the Osh City Department of Education to help identify the most needy children and to assist with distribution of 650 winter coats in 28 public schools and one orphanage. As it turned out, the timing couldn't have been better — just as we began giving out coats the mercury started to drop down to about -5 C (23 F)!

The New Year is also the traditional time here to give and receive gifts, particularly clothing. So it was particularly meaningful for the kids to receive something special and personal at this time of year. We can happily report that the children were completely thrilled with their new coats. Their parents and teachers were also incredibly appreciative. They all asked us to say "Rahmat" to the many kind people who contributed.

During this very chilly first week of the new year it’s great to know that there are now 650 happy (and warm) kids out there as a result of your generous contributions.