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    Latvians Respond to Recession with Generosity

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    NTDTelevision

    by NTDTelevision

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    The financial crisis in recession-hit Latvia is bringing out the best in many of its people. More and more Latvians are extended a charitable hand to those in need.

    This is Vladimirs Mickevic's new shop in the Latvian town of Rauna.

    But customers here don't need any money - they pay with goods.

    It's Vladimirs' way of helping Latvians beat the recession.

    [Vladmirs Mickevis, Shop Owner]:
    "Everything we have here has been exchanged for potatoes. These benches I got for a sack of potatoes and these lawn mowers I also acquired for a sack of potatoes."

    In another Latvian town pensioner Ilga Vanuska makes soup for the poor.

    She feeds around 30 people a day and for many it's their only hot meal.

    [Ilga Vanuska, Cafeteria and Soup Kitchen Owner]:
    "This came from our hearts, my husband and I wanted to do this and I am proud that I am able to help somebody. My parents were this way, too. I am glad to be able to give somebody a loaf of bread."

    Latvia's recession is deeper than most.

    Wages and jobs have been cut to curb the country's budget deficit.

    But it seems the crisis has brought out the best in many Latvians.

    A recent TV appeal to raise money for seriously ill children raised 10 times more than expected.

    One expert in behavior says charity is second nature to a country which in its early days - the mid 19th century - used to help its then destitute neighbor Estonia.

    [Aivita Putnina, Anthropologist]:
    "The crisis allows us to experience the risk of losing something. When people lose something and really live through this situation, they eventually become more compassionate towards their peers."

    It's long been recognised that the less you have the more you give.

    The theory is that those who know what it's like to have very little are
    keen to help others avoid the same fate.

    Latvia may be financially poor but when it comes to helping others it's a very rich society.