East Harling schoolchildren help Romanian youngsters

Schoolchildren in East Harling are hoping to put a smile on the faces of dozens of youngsters in Romania thanks to the donation of some early Christmas presents.

Pupils from the village's primary school have been filling shoeboxes with items, such as toys, toiletries and clothing, ready to be driven to the east European country next month.

The boxes will be delivered by Jerry and Cathy Cuthbert, also from East Harling, who have set up their own charity to help families living in poverty. The couple arrived at the school to pick up the donations in their specially purchased Ford Cargo truck.

Both have been fundraising for aid projects in Romania for about two years, but decided to establish their own charitable organisation – UK2ROM – eight months ago.

Mr Cuthbert, 46, said people would be shocked to see the conditions some people live in – including one family who spent a winter sheltering in a stone wall hut without a roof.

He said: 'It's a terrible state of affairs when there are still people living on mud floors. Everyone has heard of the orphanages, which are terrible, and the brilliant work that is going on with them now, but there are still institutions for mentally handicapped people that are not very pleasant.

'For the poorest people there seems to be no social network to catch them if they fall through the cracks.'

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As well as East Harling Primary School, the husband-and-wife team has also received support from New Eccles Hall School, which hosts a charity cake stall each day, plus Aspect Roofing and Banham Vehicle Services, which have offered advice and storage for the pair's truck.

The couple hope to set up a website soon, but in the meantime are appealing for anyone who wishes to donate money, items or host fundraising events to get in touch.

For more information call 01953 717105.