FRED Cox might not have Father Christmas’ beard but he certainly has his spirit, handing out presents to poverty-stricken children in Romania.
The 67-year-old Rotarian-cum-Santa Claus and Eastbourne charity Baby Aid gave out 1,500 presents to needy children in two villages and the wasteland beyond, where he has been doing charitable work for almost two decades.
With the help of almost £2,000 in donations from Eastbourne residents and local authorities Mr Cox filled the Santa sacks with goodies and set about his work on his week-long trip in December.
Mr Cox said the children he visited in the barren wasteland near a steel works live in dreadful conditions.
He said, “People in live in sheds because they’ve got no money to pay rent or they get thrown out for whatever reason. You get travellers coming to the area who literally knock up a shed on the wasteland and live there with no water or toilet facilities.”
Families burn old shoes and whatever else they can lay their hands on from the dump to warm themselves up in -18C temperatures which sweep across the desolate landscape during winter. He and his wife Val, a trustee of Baby Aid, stuffed their travelling bags to the brim with gloves, hats and socks donated by Eastbourne residents to offer children and the elderly.
Despite harsh living conditions he said children were always delighted to see him and his goody bags packed full of cars, footballs, dolls, sweets, fruit, biscuits and books bought at a discount price from a cash-and-carry in the village of Galati.
“It’s brilliant, it’s party time. When you turn up they know they are going to get a present and when you think they don’t get much, they’re over the moon,” he added.
To round off their trip Baby Aid purchased oranges, bananas, dunking biscuits and soft sweets for a home for the elderly.
In March Baby Aid is returning to Romania to mark its 20th anniversary and the charity plans to concentrate all its efforts on those who reside in the wasteland.
For more information about Baby Aid visit www.babyaid.org or post a cheque to Baby Aid, PO Box 182, Westham, East Sussex, BN24 9EW.