News

  • By Mike Allison on Thu, 25th April 2019
    0

    Convoy report March 2019.

    Chernobyl Aid UK  

    “We have a fridge on the truck that is not on the manifest”.  Bob’s radio call made from outside the X-ray shed at the last stage of clearing the Belarusian customs was a shock as our experience told us that this meant a massive problem and very long delay!

    Our three trucks and a small van had made the journey across Europe without mishap and having endured a lengthy delay, almost seven hours, to clear through Polish customs at Kukuriki we had added another five hours in the Belarusian side. Three vehicles were now cleared to leave the customs area and we were waiting for Bob Beech and Harold Jackson to get similar instructions with their vehicle – no such luck as the X-ray identified the fridge that had been omitted from the manifest – just an error but a serious problem.

    Bob was informed that his vehicle would be impounded overnight and that he should report to the desk at 9am the following morning. (Friday). He and Harold were given a ‘pass out’ and escorted to the gate to be met by Bob’s Belarusian family with whom they were to spend the night as planned.

    The rest of the team:  Andy Wardle, Emily and Jim Bailey, Bryan Selkirk, Ian Savage and Mike Allison stayed, also as planned, at the hotel adjacent to the customs planning for an early start on Friday morning across Belarus to the city of Gomel 350 miles away and just 40 miles from the border with mother Russia. I will come back to Bob’s adventures later.

    The build up to this and any convoy is over a period of several months with the collection and preparation of aid,  acquiring and loading of the vehicles, the detailed administration needed to produce the manifests in English and Russian, port documents and CMRs and then the choice of the convoy team – all volunteers prepared to give their time freely and pay their own expenses and spend almost two weeks away from their families and jobs. An important task is the raising of sufficient funds to meet the considerable cost involved.

    We make three of these convoys each year and it is only made possible by the efforts of our remarkable teams in all areas.  Barbara and David Cox in Longnor, Buxton With Roy and Ann provide over 7 tons of specially selected aid each year including over a ton of ‘Baby packs’ – knitted items specifically for newly born babies produced by Sue Smith and friends.  The Buxton group are also active in staging events that raise considerable funds each and every year.

    In Stockton on Tees, Vera and Alan Wade with Bob, Ian and Veronica similarly attract many tons of aid across a wide range of items including white goods, toilet and bathroom fittings, furniture as well as many walking aids and wheelchairs. Their fund-raising events, often supported by the Stockton Rotarians again are a main part of the charity’s income.

    In the Selby Area we have considerable support from the transport company Campeys of Selby over many years. Not only do they provide a trailer for our convoys and warehouse space for our aid stock they maintain the 7.5-ton vehicle, make any necessary repairs and prepare it for its annual MOT. All at no cost to the charity.

    Our major fund raiser in this area is our participation in the annual ‘Proms at the Pavilion’ organised by Jen Allison and colleagues at which Campeys   provide two large trailers to be used as the stage. We are very grateful to Paul Campey and ‘Big Mick’ for their support.   In their warehouse at Thorpe Willoughby many items of furniture, household goods, walking aids, wheelchairs, clothing, incontinent pads and hygiene goods are stored.  In Hillam we have additional storage space and truck parking at Sherburn Rubber in Austfield Lane kindly donated free by Mrs Atkinson and Bryan.

    On this and previous convoys the large Campey trailer was loaded just two days prior to leaving for the port of Hull and the ferry.   This quite tremendous task – all ‘handball’ – was achieved with the help of a huge contingent of volunteers (commandeered) by Aidan Siney from Telefonica Ltd. Many thanks guys – a great effort.

    In the administration detail we deal with foreign procedures and language and Belarus is not the easiest country to deliver to with a culture that still embraces much of that of the Soviet years.  Without the work of our team member in Gomel, Liena Fedarchuk none of this would be possible. Liena co-ordinates the communications from our office with the receiving associations including visa applications and manifest checking and all the work that follows the receipt of the aid delivery.

    All was in place for departure however our eight passports for the team did not arrive on the Friday as requested and the Embassy in London, when questioned, informed that they would be posted on Monday – too late we leave on Monday!  A misunderstanding on their part entailed a 6am start on Monday to catch a train London bound from Doncaster – taxi to the Embassy – taxi back to Kings X and the train back to Yorkshire.  Sat on the Selby train to be informed of a cancelation meant a dash to St Pancreas and a train to Sheffield. Andy Wardle with Emily and Jim were travelling North to Selby for the convoy and Andy’s call to me solved a major problem as they collected me from the station in Sheffield and we reached base with very little time to spare before leaving for the port.

    The convoy was based on the delivery of aid to three organisations, the organisation for those with impaired sight in Ivatsevichi just over two hours north east on the M1 motorway and to where Bob’s vehicle would deliver. The 7,5 tonner and the small van would deliver to the Diabetic Association in Gomel and the large unit and trailer to the social centre in the town of Dobrush just to the east of the city of Gomel.

    These associations are known to us and are run by volunteers, formally and by committee registered by the government who then provide very little in support but like to have the control. As usual our aid is of a wide range but all gets used whether it is a personal item such as clothing and footwear or furniture and equipment that can be used in the centre or their poorly equipped centres.  On our subsequent visits we are shown items delivered on previous visits and there is a real pride by the receivers in how they have made use of the aid.

    Our three vehicles having made the long journey across Belarus arrived at the Gomel customs around 5pm on Friday night. Our paperwork is now in the hands of the associations receiving the aid and they have to go through the lengthy customs procedure.  So, we made it to our Hotel in Gomel got cleaned up and were taken to the Diabetic Association office situated in the basement of a block of flats.  Riesa, the head of the association, gave us a presentation on their activities and how they had used the aid we had delivered in October last year.  It is stated that the incidence of Diabetes in Gomel is 100 times greater than in any other city in Belarus. Their help from the state is minimal and Riesa related that once a child reached 18yrs the State interviewed them to examine their living standards with the view of ceasing any further support!  Recently the regional authorities wanted the premises occupied by the Diabetic Association for other purposes and put the pressure on them to move out. Riesa, a formidable character and passionate about the work of the association contacted the President’s assistant who visited the premises with the regional official. After listening to Riesa’s presentation, he instructed the regional authority to ‘back off’ and provide the association with decorating materials and items for the centre.  A big win for Riesa!

    The association has over 750 members affected by Diabetes either directly or in the family.  Incomes are minimal and our aid enables what is left to be spent on medicines etc.

    Saturday.  We spent the morning in Gomel just relaxing waiting for a call to collect the vehicle from the customs.  We got that at 12 noon but still had to wait another four hours before clearance was given and we could proceed to the unloading in the association’s warehouse.

    It is difficult to explain how our paperwork takes almost 6 hours to be cleared at the border customs then another 8 hours in the Gomel customs. So, I will not try!

    The result of course is that by now it is late afternoon – Emily and Andy with the Dobrush people headed to unload at their centre while the two smaller trucks went to the Diabetic’s (DA) – teams were waiting at both places and the unloading was rapid.  To call these places warehouses gives a picture of what we know as a typical UK storage place.  Heavy boxes are carried up uneven stairs that would be the delight of the ‘elf and safety’ people here. No toilets, no wash basins. In fact, just ex-soviet, unused slums with rusting iron doors.

    Having unloaded the two vehicles at DA we were transported to help with the large trailer at Dobrush. The car driver hit 70k after a few yards in the centre of Gomel. I enquired if they called him Louis Hamilton whereby, he didn’t speak English but understood and passed me his police driving licence! Say no more!  Arriving at Dobrush we were surprised, but delighted to be met by an empty trailer. Job done. It was dark by now and we were taken to their new centre that they are so proud of. We delivered here two or three years ago and our aid stimulated the equipping and opening of the centre that caters for many people with a wide range of physical and mental handicaps and their families.

    Again, we had an evening of slide presentations of their work and an excellent table of food plus, of course vodka.  At both the DA in Gomel and here in Dobrush Bryan got dressed up to perform his Morris Dancing complete with many bells around his ankles. To the complete bewilderment of our hosts (and us) he tried to explain the tradition of MD in the UK.  I am sure that there are people in Belarus that now believe that millions of UK residents like nothing better that prancing about in long john’s with bells on our lower legs.

    Full marks to Bryan as he showed great courage and received a big round of applause at both venues.  As Bryan had ‘broken the ice’ as it were and possibly the vodka had loosened our British resolve, we teamed up to give a rendition of Old McDonald’s farm.  We brought the house down but as in years ago that should have been the end of it as it was a closed audience and once only event. Not in this day and age as the phones were out and our performance recorded. I am told that it was on Facebook or similar within 24 hours – maybe there will be royalties to come but future such events will have to be restricted.

    Just to recap – these people are to be admired. They have very little themselves and work for the less fortunate – they are so grateful for our help – almost frightened to ask for more but just hoping that we will come again.

    Sunday in Gomel.  After a late morning rising – well 8am, we met for coffee. Ludmilla Volkova came to meet us for an hour and Liena, our team member in Gomel and Elena from DA came with us to the park where we had a splendid lunch.  Back to the hotel for a rest then off to Liena’s bar, under new ownership, for a pizza meal and beer.

    Monday. During the past few days I was in regular contact with Bob and Harold some 350 miles away to monitor their progress and today we were hoping to drive to meet them on the border to make the Wednesday ferry in Holland.

    Bob’s and Harold’s story

    Thursday the week previous:  Fridge found not on manifest – told to report Friday at 9am which they did but on reporting as instructed they were told to report on Saturday at 9am so they stayed overnight at the hotel we had used just outside the customs complex.

    Saturday 9am.  At last they were on the way north east for a four-hour drive to Baranovichi customs for clearance but with a blue light police escort in front to make sure they got there! Their vehicle was unloaded into a large secure warehouse by customs staff and Bob and Harold told to report at 10am on Monday.

    That is the day we are leaving for home!  At the customs Evan the head of the association for those with impaired sight and Sasha his interpreter had met with Bob and Harold to conduct the paperwork proceedings. They all returned some two hours back towards the border by Evans’s car to Ivatsevichi where Evan made his house available for them to stay for the two days.  During this period, they were able to visit the proposed centre of the association. It is a typical broken-down building that the local authorities have no plans for and no funds to repair it so they gave it to the association on condition that they repair and maintain it.  Bob reports that the roof is sound but there is no water, no heating, no electric light as such and damaged walls and ceilings. A major task, almost impossible for a local charity but they are very excited about the work and are asking for help. We will look at just what we can do as we already have several items that will be needed such as toilets, bathroom sinks, paint, wall boards and general furniture.

    Monday:  Today Bob and Harold are returning with Evan and Sasha to the customs at Baranovichi hoping to clear quickly, reload the vehicle, pay the fine, return to Ivatsevichi, unload and head for the border, however late.  In my call to Bob 350 miles away the plan was that all the vehicles would meet at Ivatsevichi, unload Bob’s vehicle and head for the border together.  So, we set off from Gomel on the M10. Any description of the road as a motorway is rather overstated. About 1pm we reached the P6 to head north to Ivatsevichi. Asking Liena, by mobile, where we would meet up with Bob, she said to make our way to Evan’s house – the key will be under the mat!  How trusting is that? Well, we have stayed there before but it was a nice touch.   Half way up the P6 and a call from Bob to say that the customs refuse to start the reloading and clearance until Tuesday morning at 10am!!  Decision time.  It was decided that the large unit and trailer and the small van should go for the border and the Wednesday ferry in Holland as planned and that Ian and Mike stay with Bob and Harold to assist in the drama that was delaying us. Within five minutes of the decision being made Andy, Emily, Jim and Bryan left for the border and the three-day drive for the ferry.

    Evan brought Bob and Harold back to his house, where we had a meal and they left early so that we could relax.

    I was pleasantly surprised at the demeanour of both Bob and Harold who could have been well stressed but to the contrary they were quite relaxed almost saying “well this is Belarus!”  “What do you expect?”

    Tuesday.  We returned to Baranovichi customs and reloading commenced. I was asked to make a declaration of why the fridge was not on the manifest indicating the manufacture’s name and serial number of the machine and the value. It was a brand-new fridge among eight donated by IKEA – when asked what value would be acceptable as it was donated free to us and free to them – they agreed £80 – a lot of money out there. Written on letterhead, signed and charity stamped.  An hour later they returned from the office to ask to increase the value to £100 but it had to be written again on new letterhead signed and stamped.  This time the document also got a customs stamp!  Another hour and I was again asked to rewrite the whole thing on my last piece of letterhead and put the value to £350!  You don’t argue you just do it!  Later, just prior to leaving a very smart customs officer asked the interpreter to read four full pages of typed detail to Bob that Bob had to sign many times to admit his ‘violation’ (smuggling) and that the customs themselves had carried out their role professionally at all times.  I think Bob would have signed anything just to get out of there. They, the customs officers were polite throughout but there was not a chance of them making an exception for our error or the fact the Bob was just the driver carrying out instructions.  They just follow their systems and if that takes time – so what?

    It was after 4pm when we drove out of the customs for the 2 plus hour drive to Ivatsevichi and almost dark when we got there. At 7pm we had made a record unloading of the vehicle into Evan’s warehouse. Evan asked if we wanted refreshments – he got a hug instead and within minutes we had said our goodbyes and were heading for the border which we had decided to cross into Poland that night with a plan to get the Friday ferry. We could not risk a similar crossing as the inbound one.  Despite our vehicles being empty the procedures took a long time and we made it into Poland reaching our hotel Dukat some 30 minutes later at 4.30am. That had been a long day but we were now in Europe with time to spare.  Leaving in the early afternoon of Wednesday the journey was routine we were in contact with Andy and the other vehicles each day and they were pushing for their ferry tonight at 8pm latest.

    They made it with minutes to spare.  We had confirmed with the port that two of the vehicles needed to travel Friday instead of the booked crossing on Wednesday so the pressure was off.

    Thursday: Andy and the early team docked in Hull returned the Campey trailer to Thorpe Willoughby, collected their cars then travelled home South returning the hired unit to Kings Lynn and the van to Leek on the way.

    We made the Friday ferry and docked in Hull the following day, two days later than planned,  Very tired.

    Job well done!

    Since returning we are already receiving comments and requests from the organisations who send their many thanks and greetings to their friends in UK.  Their task now is to check the aid items and present documentation that has to be accepted by the customs and other authorities to allow clearance and distribution hopefully within a few weeks.  To them it is the norm – to us?  Well, after all these years we have come to accept it but we certainly do not understand it.

    Many thanks to all who have contributed in whatever way to enable us to deliver much needed aid to so many people less fortunate than ourselves.

     

    Mike Allison

    Chernobyl Aid UK

    April 2019

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • March 2019 Convoy to Belarus

    By Mike Allison on Thu, 25th April 2019
    0

    Convoy report March 2019.

    Chernobyl Aid UK  

    “We have a fridge on the truck that is not on the manifest”.  Bob’s radio call made from outside the X-ray shed at the last stage of clearing the Belarusian customs was a shock as our experience told us that this meant a massive problem and very long delay!

    Our three trucks and a small van had made the journey across Europe without mishap and having endured a lengthy delay, almost seven hours, to clear through Polish customs at Kukuriki we had added another five hours in the Belarusian side. Three vehicles were now cleared to leave the customs area and we were waiting for Bob Beech and Harold Jackson to get similar instructions with their vehicle – no such luck as the X-ray identified the fridge that had been omitted from the manifest – just an error but a serious problem.

    Bob was informed that his vehicle would be impounded overnight and that he should report to the desk at 9am the following morning. (Friday). He and Harold were given a ‘pass out’ and escorted to the gate to be met by Bob’s Belarusian family with whom they were to spend the night as planned.

    The rest of the team:  Andy Wardle, Emily and Jim Bailey, Bryan Selkirk, Ian Savage and Mike Allison stayed, also as planned, at the hotel adjacent to the customs planning for an early start on Friday morning across Belarus to the city of Gomel 350 miles away and just 40 miles from the border with mother Russia. I will come back to Bob’s adventures later.

    The build up to this and any convoy is over a period of several months with the collection and preparation of aid,  acquiring and loading of the vehicles, the detailed administration needed to produce the manifests in English and Russian, port documents and CMRs and then the choice of the convoy team – all volunteers prepared to give their time freely and pay their own expenses and spend almost two weeks away from their families and jobs. An important task is the raising of sufficient funds to meet the considerable cost involved.

    We make three of these convoys each year and it is only made possible by the efforts of our remarkable teams in all areas.  Barbara and David Cox in Longnor, Buxton With Roy and Ann provide over 7 tons of specially selected aid each year including over a ton of ‘Baby packs’ – knitted items specifically for newly born babies produced by Sue Smith and friends.  The Buxton group are also active in staging events that raise considerable funds each and every year.

    In Stockton on Tees, Vera and Alan Wade with Bob, Ian and Veronica similarly attract many tons of aid across a wide range of items including white goods, toilet and bathroom fittings, furniture as well as many walking aids and wheelchairs. Their fund-raising events, often supported by the Stockton Rotarians again are a main part of the charity’s income.

    In the Selby Area we have considerable support from the transport company Campeys of Selby over many years. Not only do they provide a trailer for our convoys and warehouse space for our aid stock they maintain the 7.5-ton vehicle, make any necessary repairs and prepare it for its annual MOT. All at no cost to the charity.

    Our major fund raiser in this area is our participation in the annual ‘Proms at the Pavilion’ organised by Jen Allison and colleagues at which Campeys   provide two large trailers to be used as the stage. We are very grateful to Paul Campey and ‘Big Mick’ for their support.   In their warehouse at Thorpe Willoughby many items of furniture, household goods, walking aids, wheelchairs, clothing, incontinent pads and hygiene goods are stored.  In Hillam we have additional storage space and truck parking at Sherburn Rubber in Austfield Lane kindly donated free by Mrs Atkinson and Bryan.

    On this and previous convoys the large Campey trailer was loaded just two days prior to leaving for the port of Hull and the ferry.   This quite tremendous task – all ‘handball’ – was achieved with the help of a huge contingent of volunteers (commandeered) by Aidan Siney from Telefonica Ltd. Many thanks guys – a great effort.

    In the administration detail we deal with foreign procedures and language and Belarus is not the easiest country to deliver to with a culture that still embraces much of that of the Soviet years.  Without the work of our team member in Gomel, Liena Fedarchuk none of this would be possible. Liena co-ordinates the communications from our office with the receiving associations including visa applications and manifest checking and all the work that follows the receipt of the aid delivery.

    All was in place for departure however our eight passports for the team did not arrive on the Friday as requested and the Embassy in London, when questioned, informed that they would be posted on Monday – too late we leave on Monday!  A misunderstanding on their part entailed a 6am start on Monday to catch a train London bound from Doncaster – taxi to the Embassy – taxi back to Kings X and the train back to Yorkshire.  Sat on the Selby train to be informed of a cancelation meant a dash to St Pancreas and a train to Sheffield. Andy Wardle with Emily and Jim were travelling North to Selby for the convoy and Andy’s call to me solved a major problem as they collected me from the station in Sheffield and we reached base with very little time to spare before leaving for the port.

    The convoy was based on the delivery of aid to three organisations, the organisation for those with impaired sight in Ivatsevichi just over two hours north east on the M1 motorway and to where Bob’s vehicle would deliver. The 7,5 tonner and the small van would deliver to the Diabetic Association in Gomel and the large unit and trailer to the social centre in the town of Dobrush just to the east of the city of Gomel.

    These associations are known to us and are run by volunteers, formally and by committee registered by the government who then provide very little in support but like to have the control. As usual our aid is of a wide range but all gets used whether it is a personal item such as clothing and footwear or furniture and equipment that can be used in the centre or their poorly equipped centres.  On our subsequent visits we are shown items delivered on previous visits and there is a real pride by the receivers in how they have made use of the aid.

    Our three vehicles having made the long journey across Belarus arrived at the Gomel customs around 5pm on Friday night. Our paperwork is now in the hands of the associations receiving the aid and they have to go through the lengthy customs procedure.  So, we made it to our Hotel in Gomel got cleaned up and were taken to the Diabetic Association office situated in the basement of a block of flats.  Riesa, the head of the association, gave us a presentation on their activities and how they had used the aid we had delivered in October last year.  It is stated that the incidence of Diabetes in Gomel is 100 times greater than in any other city in Belarus. Their help from the state is minimal and Riesa related that once a child reached 18yrs the State interviewed them to examine their living standards with the view of ceasing any further support!  Recently the regional authorities wanted the premises occupied by the Diabetic Association for other purposes and put the pressure on them to move out. Riesa, a formidable character and passionate about the work of the association contacted the President’s assistant who visited the premises with the regional official. After listening to Riesa’s presentation, he instructed the regional authority to ‘back off’ and provide the association with decorating materials and items for the centre.  A big win for Riesa!

    The association has over 750 members affected by Diabetes either directly or in the family.  Incomes are minimal and our aid enables what is left to be spent on medicines etc.

    Saturday.  We spent the morning in Gomel just relaxing waiting for a call to collect the vehicle from the customs.  We got that at 12 noon but still had to wait another four hours before clearance was given and we could proceed to the unloading in the association’s warehouse.

    It is difficult to explain how our paperwork takes almost 6 hours to be cleared at the border customs then another 8 hours in the Gomel customs. So, I will not try!

    The result of course is that by now it is late afternoon – Emily and Andy with the Dobrush people headed to unload at their centre while the two smaller trucks went to the Diabetic’s (DA) – teams were waiting at both places and the unloading was rapid.  To call these places warehouses gives a picture of what we know as a typical UK storage place.  Heavy boxes are carried up uneven stairs that would be the delight of the ‘elf and safety’ people here. No toilets, no wash basins. In fact, just ex-soviet, unused slums with rusting iron doors.

    Having unloaded the two vehicles at DA we were transported to help with the large trailer at Dobrush. The car driver hit 70k after a few yards in the centre of Gomel. I enquired if they called him Louis Hamilton whereby, he didn’t speak English but understood and passed me his police driving licence! Say no more!  Arriving at Dobrush we were surprised, but delighted to be met by an empty trailer. Job done. It was dark by now and we were taken to their new centre that they are so proud of. We delivered here two or three years ago and our aid stimulated the equipping and opening of the centre that caters for many people with a wide range of physical and mental handicaps and their families.

    Again, we had an evening of slide presentations of their work and an excellent table of food plus, of course vodka.  At both the DA in Gomel and here in Dobrush Bryan got dressed up to perform his Morris Dancing complete with many bells around his ankles. To the complete bewilderment of our hosts (and us) he tried to explain the tradition of MD in the UK.  I am sure that there are people in Belarus that now believe that millions of UK residents like nothing better that prancing about in long john’s with bells on our lower legs.

    Full marks to Bryan as he showed great courage and received a big round of applause at both venues.  As Bryan had ‘broken the ice’ as it were and possibly the vodka had loosened our British resolve, we teamed up to give a rendition of Old McDonald’s farm.  We brought the house down but as in years ago that should have been the end of it as it was a closed audience and once only event. Not in this day and age as the phones were out and our performance recorded. I am told that it was on Facebook or similar within 24 hours – maybe there will be royalties to come but future such events will have to be restricted.

    Just to recap – these people are to be admired. They have very little themselves and work for the less fortunate – they are so grateful for our help – almost frightened to ask for more but just hoping that we will come again.

    Sunday in Gomel.  After a late morning rising – well 8am, we met for coffee. Ludmilla Volkova came to meet us for an hour and Liena, our team member in Gomel and Elena from DA came with us to the park where we had a splendid lunch.  Back to the hotel for a rest then off to Liena’s bar, under new ownership, for a pizza meal and beer.

    Monday. During the past few days I was in regular contact with Bob and Harold some 350 miles away to monitor their progress and today we were hoping to drive to meet them on the border to make the Wednesday ferry in Holland.

    Bob’s and Harold’s story

    Thursday the week previous:  Fridge found not on manifest – told to report Friday at 9am which they did but on reporting as instructed they were told to report on Saturday at 9am so they stayed overnight at the hotel we had used just outside the customs complex.

    Saturday 9am.  At last they were on the way north east for a four-hour drive to Baranovichi customs for clearance but with a blue light police escort in front to make sure they got there! Their vehicle was unloaded into a large secure warehouse by customs staff and Bob and Harold told to report at 10am on Monday.

    That is the day we are leaving for home!  At the customs Evan the head of the association for those with impaired sight and Sasha his interpreter had met with Bob and Harold to conduct the paperwork proceedings. They all returned some two hours back towards the border by Evans’s car to Ivatsevichi where Evan made his house available for them to stay for the two days.  During this period, they were able to visit the proposed centre of the association. It is a typical broken-down building that the local authorities have no plans for and no funds to repair it so they gave it to the association on condition that they repair and maintain it.  Bob reports that the roof is sound but there is no water, no heating, no electric light as such and damaged walls and ceilings. A major task, almost impossible for a local charity but they are very excited about the work and are asking for help. We will look at just what we can do as we already have several items that will be needed such as toilets, bathroom sinks, paint, wall boards and general furniture.

    Monday:  Today Bob and Harold are returning with Evan and Sasha to the customs at Baranovichi hoping to clear quickly, reload the vehicle, pay the fine, return to Ivatsevichi, unload and head for the border, however late.  In my call to Bob 350 miles away the plan was that all the vehicles would meet at Ivatsevichi, unload Bob’s vehicle and head for the border together.  So, we set off from Gomel on the M10. Any description of the road as a motorway is rather overstated. About 1pm we reached the P6 to head north to Ivatsevichi. Asking Liena, by mobile, where we would meet up with Bob, she said to make our way to Evan’s house – the key will be under the mat!  How trusting is that? Well, we have stayed there before but it was a nice touch.   Half way up the P6 and a call from Bob to say that the customs refuse to start the reloading and clearance until Tuesday morning at 10am!!  Decision time.  It was decided that the large unit and trailer and the small van should go for the border and the Wednesday ferry in Holland as planned and that Ian and Mike stay with Bob and Harold to assist in the drama that was delaying us. Within five minutes of the decision being made Andy, Emily, Jim and Bryan left for the border and the three-day drive for the ferry.

    Evan brought Bob and Harold back to his house, where we had a meal and they left early so that we could relax.

    I was pleasantly surprised at the demeanour of both Bob and Harold who could have been well stressed but to the contrary they were quite relaxed almost saying “well this is Belarus!”  “What do you expect?”

    Tuesday.  We returned to Baranovichi customs and reloading commenced. I was asked to make a declaration of why the fridge was not on the manifest indicating the manufacture’s name and serial number of the machine and the value. It was a brand-new fridge among eight donated by IKEA – when asked what value would be acceptable as it was donated free to us and free to them – they agreed £80 – a lot of money out there. Written on letterhead, signed and charity stamped.  An hour later they returned from the office to ask to increase the value to £100 but it had to be written again on new letterhead signed and stamped.  This time the document also got a customs stamp!  Another hour and I was again asked to rewrite the whole thing on my last piece of letterhead and put the value to £350!  You don’t argue you just do it!  Later, just prior to leaving a very smart customs officer asked the interpreter to read four full pages of typed detail to Bob that Bob had to sign many times to admit his ‘violation’ (smuggling) and that the customs themselves had carried out their role professionally at all times.  I think Bob would have signed anything just to get out of there. They, the customs officers were polite throughout but there was not a chance of them making an exception for our error or the fact the Bob was just the driver carrying out instructions.  They just follow their systems and if that takes time – so what?

    It was after 4pm when we drove out of the customs for the 2 plus hour drive to Ivatsevichi and almost dark when we got there. At 7pm we had made a record unloading of the vehicle into Evan’s warehouse. Evan asked if we wanted refreshments – he got a hug instead and within minutes we had said our goodbyes and were heading for the border which we had decided to cross into Poland that night with a plan to get the Friday ferry. We could not risk a similar crossing as the inbound one.  Despite our vehicles being empty the procedures took a long time and we made it into Poland reaching our hotel Dukat some 30 minutes later at 4.30am. That had been a long day but we were now in Europe with time to spare.  Leaving in the early afternoon of Wednesday the journey was routine we were in contact with Andy and the other vehicles each day and they were pushing for their ferry tonight at 8pm latest.

    They made it with minutes to spare.  We had confirmed with the port that two of the vehicles needed to travel Friday instead of the booked crossing on Wednesday so the pressure was off.

    Thursday: Andy and the early team docked in Hull returned the Campey trailer to Thorpe Willoughby, collected their cars then travelled home South returning the hired unit to Kings Lynn and the van to Leek on the way.

    We made the Friday ferry and docked in Hull the following day, two days later than planned,  Very tired.

    Job well done!

    Since returning we are already receiving comments and requests from the organisations who send their many thanks and greetings to their friends in UK.  Their task now is to check the aid items and present documentation that has to be accepted by the customs and other authorities to allow clearance and distribution hopefully within a few weeks.  To them it is the norm – to us?  Well, after all these years we have come to accept it but we certainly do not understand it.

    Many thanks to all who have contributed in whatever way to enable us to deliver much needed aid to so many people less fortunate than ourselves.

     

    Mike Allison

    Chernobyl Aid UK

    April 2019

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Planning for Convoy – March 2018

    By Mike Allison on Mon, 05th February 2018
    0

    In October 2017 two vehicles made the journey across Europe to the town of Stolin in the Pinsk area of Belarus. This was our third and last convoy of the year. Both vehicles were carrying a range of aid to an organisation for young disabled adults.  This organisation is operated  by a committee of which half are disabled themselves, This organisation distributed our aid to several other similar organisations so our aid benefited many children and adults across the Stolin region. Our team of four drivers visited a school and villages, taking in meetings with organisations that had previously had aid from us and others that were hoping that they would  be included in future deliveries. In December just gone, we received several letters of thanks with reports of where our aid had been distributed and they hope to receive more and we plan to make another delivery to Stolin later in 2018.

    2018

    The current action of the charity in early 2018 is to plan our next convoy. The date will be late March /early April when three trucks and a team of six will take over 25 tons of aid. We have the aid and more to collect, we have the vehicles and the team but funds are limited and despite the super fund raising activities of our supporters and several very generous personal donations we will struggle to fulfill the convoy programme this year.

    One of the vehicles will deliver to an organisation for those with impaired sight and the blind. in the small town of Ivatsevichi in the Pinsk area. Among the wide range of aid that includes walking aids, wheelchairs, clothes and footwear etc. are new reading glasses for children and adults kindly prepared and supplied by White Rose Optics of Wakefield. Yorkshire.

    A second vehicle will travel north east in Belarus to the town of Rogachev where the aid will be received by an  association of families with disabled children and young adults. The load will contain incontinent pads which will be passed on to institutions for the mental and physical adults.

    The third vehicle will have a load in excess of 12 tons to be delivered to the town of Gomel some 300 miles east across Belarus just 30 miles from the border with mother Russia. There will be two receivers on this large trailer. Firstly to the Gomel regional education department that supports many village schools, kindergartens and poor families.  The second receiver is to be the Gomel Association for those with Diabetes, An association of over 750. Gomel, just 100 miles north of Chernobyl has the highest incidence of diabetes in Belarus.

    With the volume of aid available to us we are already planning further convoys with May 2018 next in the frame.

    • We are proud that all our members and officials are unpaid volunteers – we have no paid staff and our aid teams on convoys meet their own expenses for food and accommodation.

    If you could help with a donation please do.  Most of the people in Belarus live in poor circumstances with the many disabled struggling and with very little state help their families struggle too.  We hope to continue to support them.

    Cheques to: Chernobyl Aid UK  

    Chernobyl Aid UK, The Wickets, Chapel Street, Hillam, LS25 5HP or email hello@chernobyl-aid.org.uk for more information

    Mike Allison  February 2018

     

     

     

     

  • Humanitarian Aid delivery to Belarus April 2017

    By Mike Allison on Sat, 06th May 2017
    1

    On the return ferry crossing from Rotterdam to Hull the team of ten sat at one of the large circular tables to enjoy what was our best meal in ten days and to reflect on the experiences we had enjoyed and endured during the convoy. We had just completed the 1500-mile journey from Belarus in the past three days. Holdups in the customs at both Brest and Kukuryki then a two-hour traffic standstill due to a major accident in Germany meant that it was a ‘bit of a chase’ to get to Europort before the doors closed on the ferry. We made it with minutes to spare.

    Preparation for the aid delivery took several weeks during which a wide range of aid had been collected, prepared and loaded at Stockton on Tees, Buxton in Derbyshire and Selby in Yorkshire.  Our major sponsor Campeys Haulage of Selby who provide ongoing support with warehouse space and maintenance on our vehicles also loaned an artic unit and trailer for the convoy to be driven by father and daughter team Andy and Emily Wardle.

    This large trailer was loaded on a Saturday in early April at Selby (Thorpe Willoughby) on the Campeys estate by over thirty volunteers that included 17 staff colleagues of Aidan from the offices of Telefonica O2 in Leeds.

    We have worked for several years with the International company IKEA taking surplus stock from their distribution depots at Doncaster and Peterborough. This stock that includes bedding, mattresses, furniture, crockery, kitchen units, refrigerators, microwaves etc. has made a massive difference to the organisations that cater for the needs of the disabled and poor families in Belarus.

    As on a previous convoy four years ago IKEA provided funds to support the considerable cost of making this delivery and, after an internal competition, chose two of their co-workers to be part of the convoy team.  So, Jo Lander-Brown and Maciej (Magic) Wroblewski joined the convoy team. Jo and Magic drove the pickup and trailer kindly loaned by Alan Wade who with Bob Beech made the team for their large 18 tonner and Aidan and Mike for the 7.5 truck.

    A third first timer was Malcolm (Mallie) Earless from Hillam in Yorkshire. Mallie provided his own van that carried almost a ton of incontinent pads, with a value of over £5000, targeted for Vikov and Zuravichi both institutions for the physically and mentally challenged children and adults.  Jen Allison was co-driver of the van and the social media co-ordinator for the convoy.

    Leaving base in Selby on Monday 10th April we drove to the IKEA depot at Doncaster for a photoshoot and to collect Jo and Magic and then to the ferry at Hull docks.  The journey across Holland, Germany and into Poland was uneventful apart from heavy traffic and we made our overnight stop at past 10pm. Similarly, the crossing of Poland was long in duration and meant another 10pm finish. On the third day (Thursday) we crossed the border through the customs exiting Poland and the EU and entering Belarus. As the time passed it was obvious that we would not be able to reach our onward destinations of Gomel and Rogachev that night so we stayed at the new hotel just outside the customs exit in Belarus. The food was chicken and chips, beer and a vodka, the rooms good with en-suite facilities and the price just £10.

    Alan Wade and Bob Beech stayed with a family they knew in Brest just a few minutes from the border and set off on the following morning (Good Friday) for the local customs at Pinsk. Once cleared they drove south to make their delivery in the town of Stolin just a couple of miles from the border with Ukraine. Their delivery of 8 tons was for ‘The centre of young disabled people’s support.’ Half of this organisation’s committee of 16 are disabled adults and very active in the best interest of their young people.

    Customs cleared and unloading completed during Friday enabled Alan and Bob to visit and view where a previous delivery was made last year.  They held a meeting with eight organisations who separately support the disabled and from the ‘shopping list’ they were given we plan to make another delivery there later this year.  Also in that area the local churchman, Papa Sergie, is building a hospice for sick children. The walls are completed, the roof partly finished but they are struggling with the finances to complete the whole building.  Our job will be to provide items of furniture, fabrics, paint, beds and bedding, pots and pans etc. so we will hopefully be able to include these on our next delivery to that region. Alan and Bob had a positive visit and are keen that we continue to help in that area.

     

    The other four vehicles travelled over seven hours in a North Easterly direction to the town of Rogachev where three of the vehicles were to unload at the ‘Rogachev Public Association of families with disabled children and adults’. A long title but it demonstrates that we are supporting organisations that are active in helping their own less fortunate people.  It was another long journey of almost seven hours across the country.

    The local customs procedure took the day late into the evening. After a meal, vodka and toasts with the association members we split up to spend the evening with families in their flats. A good experience for the new members and an opportunity to see the generous hospitality of their hosts first   hand.

    The Rogachev association had agreed to accept and pass on the aid for the institutions at Zhuravichi and Vikov.  Despite the number of members increasing the organisation is struggling to meet the costs of their centre which has been reduced in size to just two rooms. State aid does not exist for them. They are keen to get a sponsor for the rent as without this help they will have no premises by the year end.

    After unloading the three smaller vehicles the team made visits firstly to ‘Rodni Kut’ (translated as Cosy Corner) a home for four severely disabled young adults. They were ‘rescued’ from an institution when they were just young children by the charity Chernobyl Children’s Project UK based in Glossop. The charity converted the premises, extended them, trained the staff and continue to fund and manage the operation which provides 24/7 care for the young adults.  One of our team seen here propping up a radiation sign in the forest, Harold Jackson, joined us in Rogachev having flown from UK to be part of the convoy. Harold, a qualified joiner, has been a long-time member of the CCP charity and spent several months in Belarus on the building of this centre. He also convoyed with me in 1999 to Belarus.  Travelling with Harold by air was another aid team member, Bryan Selkirk from Catterick who went directly to the town of Gomel where we were to meet later.

    We visited the institution at Vikov deep in the forest and the lady director toured the facility with us. The whole premise has had a big ‘face lift’ in recent times and is much smarter in terms of fabric and decor than a few years ago. It is an institute for physically and mentally handicapped adults – in UK we used to call them Asylums. Most of the population of Belarus will not be aware of the existence of this or similar places! The director explained that the smarter building was not important. What was important was that the people living there felt secure, were fed and their medical requirements attended to.

    Back to the vehicles and Rogachev. We had a parcel from a lady living in UK called Valya. In 1941 when the Nazi troops were retreating from Russia they totally destroyed the town of Rogachev. Valya, as a young girl (now in her 90s) spent two years in the forests to escape and eventually came to live in England. We had an address and phone number and with the help of Alexie, our friend and interpreter in Rogachev we met her cousin and his wife and exchanged presents – all done in fifteen minutes but a nice experience.

    We drove to the city of Gomel and Andy and Emily in the Campey vehicle went into the local customs for clearance.

    The rest of the team met with Bryan at our Hotel and enjoyed a coffee, buns etc. We were summoned to Dobrush to where the Campey vehicle was to be unloaded with over 12 tons of aid for ‘Territorial centre of social services for the population of Dobrush’. Another long title but another organisation that supports the poorest and those in need.

    It was early evening and we faced at the least three hours of unloading. The messages from the customs was that they would definitely clear the paperwork that evening and release the vehicle but when?! We got the message that the vehicle was cleared at 8.30pm and was making the forty-minute’s journey to the warehouse for unloading.   By now we were ‘on our chin straps’ no food and another late night. Our morale was rescued by Bryan’s unsolicited demonstration of his Morris dancing in the darkening yard.  Well done Bryan.

    We were now a team of ten. The Belarusian’s team was about similar and we started the handling of 1500 boxes of all different sizes and weights.  The teamwork was tremendous and the hard work by all, especially Emily, Jen and Jo attracted the comment on completion from the main Belarusian man “I think that the English men are tremendous but the English ladies are even better”! On two occasions during the unloading they provided slices of cheese and sliced sausage and one bottle of vodka. We finished the task at just past midnight. They had arranged a big meal for us but it was not now possible and we left the big vehicle in the compound and were taking back to the Hotel in cars arriving at 1am.

    Easter Sunday:  The one task for today was to collect the big truck from Dobrush and make the final delivery to the Diabetic Association in Gomel.  We decided to transfer the delivery from the large trailer on to the 7.5 tonner as the DA is in the town and the smaller truck would be more suitable. Aidan, Harold and myself made the delivery to this association, had a quick unload then a really nice meal and meeting with their team including Riesa the chair person.  Gomel, as a result of the Chernobyl explosion, has by far the greatest incidence of diabetes of any city in Belarus and the association has 700 members with 40 new additions this year. Care from the state is minimal and our aid really helps as they, the families, spend much of their income on medicines leaving little for the basics in life.

    Jen took the rest of the team on a walking tour of Gomel that included the park and the church there which is spectacular and has a very splendid interior and well worth a visit. Prior to the cessation of the Soviet Union in 1989 such churches fell into disrepair as religion was oppressed by the government. It was Easter Sunday and a service was being held. The girls wore headscarves and mingled with the worshipers as all were standing with no chairs available.  The team had coffee in the park and enjoyed the relaxation.

    In the afternoon with the team together over a burger and coffee we met with Ludmilla Volkova who visited Hillam annually for 17 years as an interpreter when the Belarusian children came for a month’s respite holiday.  She was in great form and her comments and information regarding the situation in Belarus, her own life and that of her family was interesting especially for those making their first visit to the country.  Ludmilla has had Thyroid cancer and carries a ‘Chernobyl certificate’ which allows her a pension of just $150 per month! She sends her love and greetings to all who knew her in Hillam and local villages.

     

    Liena Fedorchuk is our team member in Belarus and has always been very involved over the years in all our work supporting the preparation of visa information, manifests and the year around communication with the receivers of our aid. This convoy was no exception and much of our success in making the deliveries is down to the support of Liena.  Carole Samuel of the Rotarians at Downham Market near Peterborough had completed work at a school at Rechitsa in the Gomel region where they had provided the funds to install new toilets etc. for the children. Liena was involved with all the various stages and the Rotarians asked me to deliver to Liena a plaque for the school wall and a certificate and personal gifts for her in recognition of her support to the project. It was a pleasure to do so.

    In the evening, we had a meal of pizza and a couple of beers in the premises we call ‘Liena’s Bar’. Lots of laughs and more of Bryan’s Morris dancing which the Belarusians just did not understand – not sure we did but it was great entertainment.

    Aidan and Mallie walked with Bryan and Harold to the nearby rail station to catch the overnight train to Minsk for their home bound flight to UK and we all made our rooms before 10pm.  Up at 6am on Easter Monday morning and on the way home by 7.15am.

    Leaving the Hotel for home just after 7am we met Alan and Bob on the border and with the convoy complete again we made the crossing into Poland.

    On reflection, it was a hard 10 days with only the last day, Easter Sunday, with a work finish before 10pm. We could have stayed an extra day for R&R but some of the team had commitments at home and others had done it all before so we stuck to the original plan.  Jo, Magic and Mallie were excellent team members. They worked hard throughout with lots of laughs. We enjoyed their company and participation.

    Our grateful thanks go to all our wider team at home and our supporters without whose constant help we could not manage.

    Our task was to deliver aid – to help people in organisations who were helping their less fortunate children and adults – it was not a ‘cooks tour’ – not a holiday – just a job.  Job Done!

     

    Mike

    Mike Allison April 2017

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Hills and Dales Walks 2017

    By Mike Allison on Fri, 03rd February 2017
    2

    Advanced Notice of this year’s Hills and Dales Walks.

    Organised by Keith Bailey and based on Nab End Farm, by kind permission of Barbara and David Cox, this event is a fund raiser for our charity.                                                   keithbailey@hotmail.co.uk

    Main details are:

    Date: Saturday 26th August 2017

    8, 14, and 26 Mile Walks in 10 Hours

    Open to walkers and runners. 10 hour maximum time limit

    Start and finish at NAB END FARM GR SK 077662. 

    WALKS & RUNS. Three distances to choose from.

    Overnight accommodation if required on Friday 25th August at Nab End Farm cost £8.00 per person.
    Contact: www.nabendfarm.co.uk    Booking in advance essential.

    Please check out the link below for full details

    http://www.andycrafts.co.uk/Walk/walk.html