We cannot believe we are coming to the end of 2021 and what a year it has been. It has of course been yet another challenging year for everyone but one to still be thankful for. We have continued to remain passionate about turning tears into smiles and helping people through one of the hardest times of their lives. This has been made possible through our wonderful supporters who share our passion of seeing lives transformed through our FEED programmes - Feeding, Educating, Empowering and Developing as well as Child and Widow sponsorship. We cannot thank you enough for standing with us during this year and for the support you have provided, both prayerfully and practically. Every smile created is a smile to be treasured.

Our teams on the ground in the countries where we work have been amazing. They too have had to manage the constantly changing rules and restrictions, as well as their own personal lives and sadly the deaths of loved ones. They have enabled the programmes to keep running as and when possible and have continued to be there for our beneficiaries by providing much-needed love and support. We are so humbled by everyone who has worked so hard this year to keep the smiles on people’s faces, despite everything and we are so thankful for all that has been achieved.

As you know the countries where we work have been in and out of lockdowns, all at varying times and for different lengths of time too. We have been pleased to provide a radio project in Uganda which has helped children continue to learn while they couldn’t attend school. They have been unable to go online because they do not have laptops, computers, or access to the internet, so we have been able to work with one of the schools that we support in Uganda to overcome this. The schools’ teachers broadcast a variety of lessons over a tannoy system, as well as over the local community radio. This has not only benefited the children themselves, but also many of their parents, who have been keen to improve their education.

Our Face Mask Project has continued to go well, and the production of these masks has increased considerably, meaning we have been able to produce over 6,000 face masks this year! What an achievement! Considering everything, COVID restrictions in place, lockdowns etc we are so pleased to see how beneficial this project has been to everyone involved. Providing free reusable face masks has been a huge help in getting as many children as possible back to school, in the communities where we work. It has been one less thing for the children, their families and the schools to worry about and due to the kind generosity of our supporters who have donated towards this project, we have also been able to provide more sewing machines, which has helped to speed up production and therefore distribution. This project has been a lifeline for so many, as it not only helps to empower our tailors through our Empowering programme by providing them with much-needed work and income but means people don’t have to choose between food, in order to survive, or buying a mask.  To be able to use our tailors that have been trained up over the years through our Smile Empowering programmes is so wonderful too and they have really enjoyed the responsibility that what they are making is so important.

Our palliative care team, who have so far made over 20,000 home visits since we started the work over a decade ago, have helped many families receive the help and support they so desperately needed that they otherwise would not have had through general medical care. This free service has been essential due to the COVID pandemic as the patients have been highly vulnerable and needed extra care.

As you know India has been seriously affected this year and we have been monitoring our team there very closely throughout it all. We have received daily updates and the situation there was very concerning. The numbers that we heard here in the UK were not truly accurate as collating and recording data of this magnitude in a country like India is exceptionally difficult. We estimated the figures to be a lot higher and sadly it has affected the younger population considerably. The team still managed to make a lot of face masks which were a great help to those who couldn’t afford to buy one.

Our Feeding programmes proved extremely valuable as always, but we have seen a considerable increase in the number of requests for food supplies as you can imagine. We really do need more regular support and we ask you to please consider signing up for a monthly Direct Debit for as much as you can, as this is such a lifeline to many people in need at this time.

Our micro-financing programmes have really felt the struggle this past year because if they don’t sell anything, they don’t eat. Our micro-financing programmes are a great way of giving people the support that they need to realise their dreams and become self-sufficient to help provide for their families. If this is an area that you feel you could support, then please do. It is so beneficial for those enrolled on this programme and helps them become self-sustainable and support their family.

To be able to keep people smiling through all of this uncertainty is why we’re so passionate about what we do and together we are making this happen.  We truly believe that every smile created is a smile to be treasured and you can be the reason why someone smiles. This Christmas season we are asking you to support any of our projects and truly make a difference where you can.

If you would like to donate online and help turn tears into smiles this Christmas, please visit https://www.smileinternational.org/donate or if you would like to donate through the post, then continue to use our postal address PO Box 1414, Peterborough, PE1 9WG.

Thank you to those of you who are already giving through sponsorship, regular giving, or one-off gifts.  We really value and appreciate every donation.

Thank you again for your support and from all of us here at Smile International we pray you have a very blessed Christmas and New Year.

Tim Doubleday