Spirit of giving spreads festive cheer
Some 70,000 packages have been collected by a campaign which passes unwanted Christmas presents to those in need both in Switzerland and abroad.
The organisers of the Twice Christmas campaign said they were pleased with the result – although it fell short of the record 76,000 packages worth more than SFr4 million ($3 million) collected in 2004.
"Last year was special because of the tsunami," Beat Wagner, head of communications at the Swiss Red Cross, told swissinfo.
"We were afraid that Twice Christmas might be overshadowed by that, but the opposite was true. Apparently the willingness of the population to give and to help led to a new record."
This year more than 500 volunteers have offered their services until the end of January to sort out the donations, which include toys, basic foodstuffs and toiletries, children's shoes and school articles.
Under the scheme, now in its ninth year, people take unwanted presents to their local post office, which transports them free of charge to the Swiss Red Cross's logistics depot in the Swiss capital, Bern.
"We have seen in recent years that people increasingly give what we have asked for," Wagner said.
"There is always a wide range of things, but only a small number of gifts really cannot be distributed afterwards. For instance, we can only export to Romania and Bulgaria foodstuffs which will last for at least six months."
Twice Christmas, which runs during the holiday period from December 24 until January 5, is jointly organised by the Swiss Post, the Swiss Red Cross and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) – swissinfo's parent company.
Around half the gifts go to charitable institutions and people in need in Switzerland. Distribution takes place in close cooperation with the social services and local authorities.
The other 50 per cent will be transported to three countries in eastern Europe: Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria.
"Moldova is the poorest country in Europe and we feel obliged to help the people there. And in Romania and Bulgaria certain regions were flooded up to five times last summer," Wagner said.
The Twice Christmas campaign was the idea of SBC editorial staff and its aim is to redistribute unwanted or surplus gifts.
This Christmas some 70,000 packages were donated.
During its first year in 1997, goods worth SFr2.5 million were collected. Last year, a record 76,000 packages were collected, with a combined value of more than SFr4 million.
A total of SFr32 million has been donated since the launch of the initiative.
In compliance with the JTI standards
More: SWI swissinfo.ch certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative
Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!
If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.