Scottish Catholic development agency SCIAF has launched a Christmas appeal in aid of families in Nicaragua.
Parishioners are not only being asked to donate funds to support the charity's life-changing work, but are being encouraged to reach out to people in need directly by writing Christmas messages and prayers.
The appeal has been launched following a visit to Scotland by Sr Rebecca Trujillo, head of SCIAF's partner in Nicaragua, the Special Families charity, which helps disabled children and their families.
During her visit to Scotland, Sr Rebecca Trujillo asked for prayers, solidarity and concrete support for families in need in Nicaragua and around the world.
Beautiful Christmas decorations made by the children at Special Families have been sent to SCIAF supporters so they can write messages and prayers on them before SCIAF returns them to Nicaragua to be placed on the Special Families Christmas tree.
Philippa Bonella, SCIAF's Head of Communications and Education said: "People in need not only need vital material support, they need our prayers too.
"This Christmas we are asking supporters in parishes across Scotland to pray for the people of Nicaragua and other developing nations, and in particular for disabled children and their families, for whom life can be extremely difficult."
SCIAF and Sr Rebecca hope that the wonderful work undertaken by Special Families can inspire parishioners this Christmas.
Sr Rebecca told SCIAF: "I look at how far we have come and the strength of some of the people we work with and I am amazed.
"There has been an element of chance in almost every bit of good fortune that has come our way but people have been praying and looking for an opening and our prayers have been answered."
SCIAF has supported numerous projects by Special Families, including the creation of a wheelchair workshop and an arts and crafts shop.
Funds have also gone towards recycling schemes and helping the charity to produce its own dairy products.
Children who attend the special education centre receive physiotherapy sessions, academic support and lunch.
Alejandra del Carmen Martínez López is one of the Mother Leaders at Special Families. She explained in a letter to SCIAF supporters the difference the support had made to her family.
"When my daughter Cristina was four, we had a visit from Special Families. Cristina has Down's Syndrome and she couldn't speak. She couldn't walk or control her neck or head either," she explained.
"Special Families gave Cristina a lot of physical and occupational therapy. Now
Cristina can walk so we can go out together. She can speak a little too and she has made friends. She's overcome so many difficulties.
"As a Mother Leader I help other mothers in my situation. I'm also teaching and supporting other children like Cristina through Special Families. I feel useful. Now I'm employed I have money to cover the bills. I've also bought a gas cooker and I can buy things for Cristina."
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