A mission to send 100 Christmas shoe boxes to 100 children aged 10 months to 14 years old in Nicaragua has been undertaken by a Margate healthcare recruitment worker.
Max Vernieuwe is determined to bring some Christmas joy to youngsters in the Loma Fria community after spending three months with them as a Rayleigh International volunteer.
The 23-year-old, who has a background in freight and sales, says the experience on the government International Citizen Service changed his life.
Max said: “I spent three months volunteering in a small Nicaraguan community by the name of Loma Fría, I was baffled by the poverty but also touched by their beautiful nature.
“I lived in the community and made strong bonds. What struck me was the simplicity and how kind and loving the people were.
“But they have so little. They are exploited as workers in the coffee trade. Families of six to eight people have £3.50 a day to live on.
“This is why I want to give them the gift of Christmas. There are 96 children in the community aged up to 14 and I want to do something for them.”
Max is currently setting up an ethical business to help sustainably develop the community through buying the coffee and selling on the UK market.
But first he aims to raise £1000 to send Christmas shoeboxes. Donations of second-hand clothes and toys are also welcome.
Max is being helped by his friend Davie Loveridge, who came up with the shoebox idea. The pair need to raise the cash to pay shipping for the gifts.
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Fifty percent of households live in extreme poverty. Good schools and job opportunities are limited outside the cities, generations of Nicaraguans continue to rely on the same small farms, and so remain in extreme poverty.
The country is also struggling with the conflict connected to being on the drug trafficking route to the United States and chaotic violence and protests against social security changes made by President Daniel Ortega, all of which have been pushing the poverty rates back up.