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Gifts give Christmas cheer to the needy

Unwanted toys will be distributed to underprivileged children

(Keystone)

A special campaign which passes unwanted Christmas presents to those in need both in Switzerland and abroad has got underway.

From Saturday onwards, surplus gifts can be handed in to post offices across the country. They will then be sent to the non-governmental organisation, the Swiss Red Cross, which distributes the packages to the underprivileged.

The operation, called Twice Christmas, is jointly organised by the Swiss Post, the Swiss Red Cross and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – swissinfo's parent company.

It runs during the holiday period from December 24 until January 5.

Under the scheme, now in its ninth year, people can take unwanted presents to their local post office, which transports them free of charge to the Swiss Red Cross' logistics depot in the Swiss capital, Bern.

Volunteers sort out the presents for distribution. Particularly appreciated are non-perishable goods, toiletry articles, new children's shoes and school articles.

Gifts divided

Around half of the gifts will go to charitable institutions and people in need in Switzerland. Distribution takes place in close cooperation with the social services and local authorities.

"The Twice Christmas campaign is a real gesture of solidarity with disadvantaged people and aims to ease their plight," said the three organisations in a joint statement.

The other 50 per cent will be transported to three countries in eastern Europe – Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria.

As both Romania and Bulgaria were hit hard by this summer's flooding, the operation will be "an important complement" to Swiss Red Cross aid projects in the region, the statement added.

SBC radio programmes will regularly report on how the initiative is progressing.

The campaign hopes to build on last year's success. In 2004, Twice Christmas collected 76,000 packages, with a combined value of more than SFr4 million ($3 million).

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Twice Christmas campaign was the idea of SBC editorial staff and its aim is to redistribute unwanted or surplus gifts.

During its first year in 1997, goods worth SFr2.5 million were collected. Last year, the value of the goods was more than SFr4 million.

A total of SFr32 million has been donated since the launch of the initiative.

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