Wish Upon a Tree: Helping Needy Kids in Cologne, Germany

Wish Tree Gifts

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is easy to forget that many families struggle to put food on the table—let alone provide their family with treats and presents. With holiday movies and propaganda dictating that getting a lot of gifts means that a child is good, and getting smaller or no presents indicates that a child is bad, the holiday season can be agony for families at the poverty line.  

Imagine children sadly asking if they were bad this year because their friend got a new game system and they received a coat they desperately needed. Rea Niessen, Destinations Manager for Random Acts, donned a Santa hat in Cologne, Germany, and partnered with Random Acts to fulfill Christmas wishes for struggling city families. 

Poverty in the City

Major cities generally have a higher cost of living—including higher rent and steeper prices for goods and services. As an average, city jobs do not pay more than rural jobs, creating an imbalance between cost of living and wages. According to DW.com, Cologne prices are about ten percent higher than Germany’s eastern states—making purchasing power poverty prevalent in the area. The cost of living imbalance is not taken into consideration when determining someone’s poverty status, leaving many city families to struggle without assistance.

Helping the Needy Children of Cologne

Rea and Her Gifts

That’s where Rea came in. Her office building sets up wish trees each year, giving employees a wide range of gifts to choose from so everyone can help within their own means. The office partners with multiple charitable organizations within the Cologne area to help needy children in the community. Thanks to the partnerships with an orphanage, a refugee youth center, and food assistance organizations, kids from all over the city were given an opportunity to add their wish into the mix.

Rea said, “I love the idea of wish trees. I think many people do not like to ask for help. This is a gentle way to express a wish with the knowledge that supporters can pick what is doable for them.”

An Annual Tradition

Rea chose this project for her Holiday Act after finding out about the annual tradition last year, and decided to support the cause this year as well. She grabbed some wishes off of the tree, did research on the requested gifts, and went on a giving shopping spree with the help of Random Acts.

After wrapping the presents in beautiful wrapping paper, Rea left the presents under the tree to wait for delivery. Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Andrea’s inspired her co-workers to participate for the first time, extending the reach of her impact. 

The Gift of Giving

Pre-Wrapped Gifts

Rea said, “It always gives me a good feeling to help somebody, to make a little change in this world, and to show somebody is out here and cares—that the people I help are not alone. And it always strengthens me in wanting to be a part of Random Acts and our mission to make this world kinder. It is a wonderful feeling to know we all do our best to make a little sense in this world. I hope and love when it infects others.”

How to Help in Your Own Community

If you are inspired by Rea’s story, you can check out the donation opportunities in your own area when the holidays roll back around. A lot of offices and schools set up giving trees. Many stores and organizations also provide bins for toy collections. But why wait? You can head over to the Random Acts staff page to find the regional rep in your area. Your rep would love to brainstorm some ideas to help your own community today.