We discharged from the ferry at 8am on Wednesday 8th April to make the short drive (90 mins) from Hull to our base near Selby. Despite the work during the previous 12 days and the fatigue that seemed to be with us all we still needed to load 12 pallets of aid onto Alan’s vehicle before he and Bob set off for home in Stockton on Tees. The aid will be a start for Alan’s next load and the aim was also to free up space within the main warehouse.
Within an hour or so and after a handshake and a few hugs the team made off towards their own homes with many memories and stories to tell and maybe embellish a little in the future. We all know what happens to a good story – they get better with age!
Nevertheless we had experiences, situations and tasks that kept us on our toes throughout the convoy period and the plan worked, aid delivered, meetings held and visits made – Job Done!
Four vehicles and eight in the team we made the crossing of Europe in good time and without problem and even the customs crossing Poland to Belarus was pretty standard. On entering Belarus the vehicles split with Alan and Bob taking a northern route to Lida near Grodno to a charity that supports children with cancer. Mick, Mike, in their vehicle and Jen and Veronica headed north east into the centre of Belarus to deliver one vehicle to the town of Rogachev and where an association of families with disabled children received the aid. Nearby in the forests a home for mentally challenged adults was the target for the smaller van load. Meanwhile the fourth vehicle driven by Bryan and Kevin had traveled due east 350 miles to the city of Gomel right on the border with Mother Russia. Their aid was for a charity that supports the disabled and the poor city dwellers living in high rise flats. Many of these people were originally country village folk with a small detached wooden house, land, animals etc and lived a poor but independent life. After the Chernobyl explosion they were evacuated and rehoused in flats many of which have just two rooms.
The vibes we all got from the receivers were of real gratitude, enthusiasm and excitement on viewing the wide range of aid. Without exception they all expressed there thanks to our wider team at home for just caring about their unfortunate situation where many of the basic things in life are either not available or too expensive. We stayed in their flats and enjoyed their hospitality and it was humbling to us that they gave us all they had when it was very easy to see that life for them is a constant struggle.
On returning to Gomel we had meetings with the director of Gomel Region Education, a department that covers many schools and institutions in the region. We visited a home for disabled children, a large centre used as an activity camp for children from the villages and to where we have sent much of the equipment on display and then to a proposed similar facility just 1 km from the Ukraine border. They hope to have this place open this summer to host young children from ‘socially dangerous situations’.
Alan and Bob had delivered their aid and traveled through to the capital Minsk, to the village of Lapichi which Alan described as he poorest he had seen, and down to Brest where they visited families known to them. We all met up at the border there to exit Belarus on the way home.
So many people to thank. The eight of us were the lucky ones as we had the experience and received the gratitude of the people we met in Belarus but as always there are many others involved that have worked so hard in the preparation for convoy, our suppliers of the aid, our generous donors and fund raisers without whom non of this would happen. We would also like to thank those in Belarus who run the organisations for unfortunate children and adults in their own country – they do it with compassion and without payment and we salute them for that.
Mike Allison April 2015