After the terrorist attacks in Paris on the 13th November 2015 I spent a couple of days in a bit of a daze. I didn’t leave the flat where I was staying in Munich and just spent a lot of time reading news reports and flicking through YouTube. The world felt very surreal and I think it made me quite depressed. I’ve felt more and more these last few years that the world is becoming a much crazier place; I really don’t like the way the world seems to be unfolding in a multitude of ways and I think what happened in Paris was just another little trigger to fan the flames of fear and social apprehension. I’ve read 1984 and I think we’re heading down a very dark path. That being said I remember feeling the need to snap out of it and do something positive to try and add some balance to the world. Even if something small. If only for my own sanity.
It was leading up to Christmas and it felt like the perfect opportunity to cross #35 off my list. I was really keen to hand deliver some gifts to an orphanage on Christmas day, see the effects first-hand and maybe even spend some time with the kids. I was actually trying to find orphanages in the UK that I could visit as I would be home around that time and found out after a few Google searches just how unlikely it would have been. Apart from the fact there doesn’t seem to be any working orphanages in the UK anymore, any children in care are protected by social services and no direct contact is even possible. Then after getting some advice from the organiser of EVERY CHILD NEEDS Christmas who I had been referred to through a friend I started to get a little deflated because my ideas of how I wanted to achieve this item seemed out of reach. ECNC do amazing work to gather up a lot of gifts and toys and deliver them all themselves to social services who then pass them to the unlisted addresses where the children are homed. I still really wanted to somehow deliver them myself as I had been inspired by a friend of mine called Simon who in the previous year had donated gifts to a children’s hospice back home in Weston-super-Mare. While I was doing all this, and I have no idea why it didn’t hit me sooner, I seemed to have forgotten something incredibly important.
Ever since I started this list certain things have seemed to fit into place perfectly. Opportunities come at just the right time and I meet or know someone who is happy and able to help me out. It’s almost eerie in its synchronicity. Because of that fact I have deliberately tried not to overly force anything to happen and I hold the belief that each item will present itself at just the right time. My gut feelings definitely guide me more than ever nowadays. The ‘something’ that I had forgotten was that my friend Jenni, who I was staying with during my time in Munich, just so happened to work at an orphanage. I can’t tell you where exactly and I can’t tell you what the orphanage is called but I can tell you that it lifted my heart when we began talking about the possibility of making a visit.
I had set aside €150 euros of my own money to spend on a few gifts and after a post on Facebook asking if anyone else would like to get involved the total got a little larger. As well as collecting some more money at gigs and contributions from friends (Thank you to Mike, Jo, Leysan & ‘The Curl’) the total stood at just short of €500 euros! Jenni asked her boss some advice as to what was most needed and so with a good idea of what to get we headed into the city.
There were 10 kids in total and the first thing we bought were 10 sets of headphones as they were apparently in high demand. It turns out that every single set of headphones the kids had had packed in by the time Christmas day came along so they were a perfect start. We also got 10 wrist watches, a selection of DVDs, a couple of Rubiks cubes, some board & card games and a selection of chocolates and sweets for them to share. A few days of wrapping ensued and it was really great to see a big pile of presents at the end of it all.
Being able to actually deliver the gifts and be with them on Christmas day itself was not going to be possible but Jenni and I planned a visit at the end of November to drop them off and spend some time with the kids. As we arrived I was greeted excitedly by each child as they ran about the place. I’d also met them briefly a few days earlier when I went with Jenni and her co-workers to take them to the cinema but today they seemed to be more ‘smiley’. We sat in the lounge area and I gave them all their first ever guitar lesson showing them a couple of chords and the first part of Jingle Bells. We then shared some food together and watched Ice Age 4 laid out on huge comfortable bean bags which may have been a contributing factor as to why I fell asleep during the movie. It was a really chilled and emotionally rewarding day.
This was a message from Jenni after I left
“The Kids loved you and you made them very happy today! They are always smiling and saying “Ryan, sehr sehr gut!” (Ryan, very very good) and pointing with the thumbs up when they see the guitar in the office”
This was a message from Jenni on Christmas day
“Big eyes, beautiful smiles and happy kids. Thank you very much Ryan for the gifts. You are awesome! The refugees and german kids had a wonderful Christmas because of you! Thanks to all the people who spend the money for the gifts! Priceless how happy they were! Thankyou all!!!”
They made me a card and I couldn’t have been happier with how it went. I was told that there had been quite a lot of agitation in the house and some of the kids had been fighting and somewhat difficult to control leading up to my visit. The evening after I had left was apparently the calmest it had been for weeks which if it was anything to do with me rather than just being a coincidence is one of the nicest feelings I’ve ever known. A BIG thank you to Jenni who helped make it possible. It felt amazing to tick this one off the list and I am sure it won’t be the last time I do it either. Maybe the start of a real Christmas tradition. I truly Merry Christmas indeed.