On July 20th two vehicles departed Hillam on route for Belarus and the town of Stolin situated in the south west and just a few miles from the border with Ukraine. This was a new destination for the charity and aimed at a public association that supports young people with disabilities. Our vehicles carried a wide range of aid including wheelchairs, walking aids and some very expensive mobility stretchers designed for the severely handicapped. Incontinent pads, prams and pushchairs, fridges, beds, bedding, toys, clothing and footwear and many other items made up the ten tonne total delivery.
Within the team of four was Alan, Bob and Ian from Stockton on Tees and myself from Hillam. Alan is a colleague Trustee of our charity and a Rotarian having been the recent president of the Stockton Rotarians.
The Rotarians in Stockton linked with Rotary International had asked Alan to source a project in Belarus that they could and would support if it met their stringent criteria. So we had two targets – the delivery of aid and the sourcing, or not, of a new project.
On the outward journey almost across Poland we had a major breakdown of the large truck from Stockton – Friday night and the part required in Sweden and not due until 9am on the Monday. So Alan and I travelled on to cross into Belarus leaving our colleagues to spend the weekend in Poland.
The customs procedure was followed by the unloading of the truck in Stolin into a customs registered warehouse. The receiver was called Mikhail. He was the chairperson of the committee of 12. That day he was opening a summer camp for ten children from different schools and villages and all with some problem either of behaviour or medical.
We travelled in the minibus with these kids most of whom just did not want to be there and as we travelled south towards the Ukraine border we tried to communicate. We had some success with Rooney, Messe and Beckham. Arriving at the camp site we watched as Mikhail briefed the kids then organised the tent pitching. We were very impressed with his attitude and he soon has the kids active and participating in setting- up the camp and then into pottery making.
After food, prepared by his helpers, we travelled to the village of Luca where Mikhail intends to build a home for six disabled young adults and provide shelter for the old people, all from the local villages.
The wooden buildings situated in several acres of scrub land were totally dilapidated with no power or water but Mikhail had been given permission by the authorities to use the area and the local villagers had promised to help. Mikhail was not aware of Alan’s search for a project and still isn’t but he asked for help. I mentioned to our interpreter, Elena, that this was his dream and she told him which sponsored a reply “it is not a dream – it will happen” Full marks to him. Elena informed Alan and I that we were now going to see a project that Mikhail had completed and that the original building was in a poorer state than those that we had just viewed.
Travelling back into Stolin to the new centre we were surprised to see that the roof of the building was covered with solar panels.
The lighting inside was LED, the walls were timber clad and the floors tiled with all the facilities modern and functional. The current activity is for disabled young adults to make pottery items for sale and to give them an income from the proceeds. In the larger room they hope to educate disabled youngsters in computing and so we are wanting second hand laptops that we can clean and take out there in October. Can you help? We need 20!
The following day Bob and Ian arrived from Poland, their vehicle repaired and after unloading we all retraced our steps from the previous day. Travelling to within 1km of the border with Ukraine we were stopped by the Belarusian border guards but after a brief discussion we were allowed to drive on for the short journey to the camp site.
Then to Mikhail’s ‘dream’ project and the completed centre for a second viewing. We met with Nicholai the chair of the local Red Cross and Viktor the director of a company in Agriculture both supporters of Mikhail’s projects.
Alan will consider with Rotary colleagues if Mikhail’s project warrants their support and we, Chernobyl Aid UK will deliver aid including paint, building material, beds and furniture and, of course laptops, on a future convoy.
Many thanks to our sponsors and suppliers of aid – Lowes Financial Management, Ikea, SCA, Whittles Paint, APC Clothing and all our many regular suppliers of knitted garments, footwear, clothing and bedding etc.
We are grateful for the help of our interpreter Elena from Pinsk in Belarus whose services we were using for the first time on convoy and, as always, Liena Fedorchuk our resident team member in Gomel who co-ordinates all our convoy activities in Belarus.
As usual our aid team, all volunteers, were readily available in the preparation, loading and delivery of the aid. No time to rest though as our next convoys already in the planning stage for October this year and April 2017.
Mike Allison. August 7th 2016