To begin with, I would like to remember our great friends of more than 25 years, Anthony Petty and Doris Lessing, who are no longer physically with us, having passed away recently, but whose love and devotion remain an inspiration to us all.

Doris Lessing

To continue with a brief report:  this year in my annual journey to Ukraine, it was wonderful to observethe changes in the lives of the Ukrainian children.  I could clearly see the improvements being made, and felt inspired to carry on with the work and to achieve even more for those children, despite our various limitations;  sadly, it is impossible to visit all our children in various parts of the world.

I am very pleased to say that, in conjunction with the overall development of the work of Maria Relief Fund, a Maria Community Centre is now well established in Ukraine, with dedicated volunteers providing a happy and safe environment for the children. Every Friday afternoon, the children attend a specially organised English class.  So far 25 children have benefited, and now their foster parents too, are keen to join in, though there is a great need for more basic pre-school English books and stationary.

I would now like to ask for your help so that we can continue our work for the children.  There are currently more than 200 families involved, to each of whom we contribute £150 every year.  We would be very grateful for any contribution you could make towards this vital work.

Finally I would like to bring you up to date with the development of the Phoenix Aid Centre, which provides therapeutic services for those who need professional support, but cannot otherwise afford it.  This charity is based in London, and has now been running successfully since 2010.  So far, over 60 people have been helped, a considerable number of whom are refugees, and we are very pleased with its progress.

Christmas can't be drawn on a card or captured in a photograph. Christmas is a multitude of impressions seen through different eyes – those of a child, of older people, of philosophers and religious leaders. Everyone describes Christmas in a very personal way. Christmas embodies enough riches for each to find their own.

I see Christmas as being more than just about people. It lies deep in the heart of nature: in the movement of the waters, in the river joining to the sea, in the sound of thunder and the light of the sun; in the green forest where birds fly; in the sweet balm of a smile on the face of an innocent child: this, for me, is the message of Christmas.

I see Christmas as part of a journey, on which we overcome obstacles to reach the good news of freedom and the emancipation of the spirit. On this journey we have to make choices: it's a hard and challenging journey. Sometimes we seem paralysed, unable to move forwards, feeling lost and hopeless. Yet all the time light, hope and love are there waiting for us, if we can only open our eyes and hearts to our surroundings. Now I feel I have more than enough reasons to celebrate Christmas!

I want to greet you all, with thanks for your continuing support in our mission to spread hope, light and love. Your help has enabled us to run projects in Iran, India, China, Ukraine, Africa and the UK.

On this important and universal occasion, I want to promise to provide a voice for those who have none, and to provide help when needed. I promise to seize every opportunity to help ease distress and bring joy: I like to celebrate Christmas amongst women and children who have suffered darkness and cruelty. We will see a flower of happiness blossom on the tree. We will see smiles blossom on innocent faces that were once sad.

Once again, I wish you all a joyous Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year.





Maria Relief Fund
20 Morris Road, Lewes
East Sussex BN7 2AT

Registered Charity No.

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