Since the November convoy returned to UK the local aid team have continued with collections and receipts of aid on a regular basis which in turn creates work within the warehouse to make room for the packing and sorting activity. Already we have sufficient aid to fill two vehicles and as reported below in the November report we still have the large trailer already loaded and ready to travel once the weather conditions on route permit. Our biggest task this year, 2013, will be to raise sufficient funds to pay for the considerable cost of sending the aid and the date of the next convoy cannot be decided until we have done just that. So fund raising activities are on the agenda and individual donations are very welcome – please ensure that these are marked for ‘convoy funds’. Also companies are encouraged to sponsor a convoy or vehicle – any contribution that is offered will be very helpful and allow us to continue our efforts to help others in Belarus far less fortunate than ourselves.
November Convoy 2012 Report
Arriving back at our base near Selby Yorkshire on 28 November 2012 after a twelve day return trip to Belarus the team reported ‘business as usual – job done’. The journey to and from our destinations proved uneventful and the long delays on the borders were as expected and pretty normal apart from a four hour ‘log jam’ outside the customs point at Kukuriki Poland. The entry gates were closed for that period and as usual no reason was given and I suppose we did not expect to get one.
Three trucks were to make the journey with a payload of over 30 tonnes of a range of aid destined for the poorest people in the country including many disabled children and the institutions and schools that support them. Some days before departure Paul and David Campey had to cancel for business reasons and their trailer will be sent possibly early in the New Year depending on the weather and road conditions. However the Charity had purchased a Focus Estate Car that is to be used in Gomel by our SCT team there to transport doctors, nurses and to collect visitors from the airport etc. We were asked to deliver it with the convoy so we filled it with 16 boxes (144 kg) of new bedding and Kevin Edwards and Alan Miles took a late call to be the drivers.
Two days from departure and we had major problems with the Daf unit, recently serviced and tested, but now failing to start. Despite checking all the fuel lines, discussions with the experts at Daf Aid and a tremendous effort from Paul Campey in co-ordinating the mechanics, the problem could not be solved in time to leave for the Hull Ferry so it was decided that the one truck and the car would leave on the Friday night as planned and that the Daf once repaired would leave on the Sunday. Bob Beech and Bryan Selkirk were informed of the situation and travelled to Selby to make the Sunday ferry with an ETA in Gomel now three days later than planned. The repair to the Daf included replacing all the fuel lines and the vehicle ran perfectly throughout the convoy. As someone said” it was better for it to fail in our backyard rather than on the road in Europe”!
Once cleared through customs into Belarus on Monday evening, the vehicles split with Alan Miles and Mike Allison travelling on the M1 to the capital Minsk and the Children’s Hospice there. The car with Kevin and Aidan took the M10 across some 350 miles to the city of Gomel where the car and contents would be received by our SCT team. This entailed both vehicles travelling overnight and reaching their destinations on the Tuesday morning.
In Minsk we had fast customs clearance and by lunchtime had completed the delivery at the Hospice. After lunch and a meeting with Anna Garchakova, the founder and director, we left for Gomel arriving at 7pm at the hotel for a shower and out for a meal with our colleagues. They reported that the car had not been cleared by the local customs despite the efforts of the SCT team and that it would be the following day before we got completion.
We were in regular contact with Bryan and Bob who, by this time, were making the crossing through the border customs, Poland into Belarus, with a planned ETA for Gomel at 9am on the Thursday morning,
The team already in Gomel visited the Gomel Social centre which was to receive the aid from the trailer still in UK. This is a refuge centre for families and refugees and in addition has over 3000 needy families on their books. The load of over 17 tonnes due to arrive with them shortly will be well received. After a view of the premises and aid storage areas, very restricted and in need of a big team to unload on arrival, we had a meal and a meeting during which they showed many photos and videos of their work with children. We had with us a memory stick powerpoint presentation that featured the wider aid team, the products we deliver and the collection and loading operation. They were well impressed.
Then it was on to the Mayflower centre opened and funded by our charity for almost 15 years. CCP UK still supports the centre which caters for the very disabled children and young adults. It is always a good visit as the aid team know many of the staff and children. It was a surprise for Alan Miles as the cook’s children were hosted by Alan and Margaret two years ago in UK and they both turned up at the centre while we were there. I do not know who was the most surprised, Alan or the two boys, but they were all delighted to meet again.
On Thursday morning we met Bob and Bryan at the ‘meeting place’ on the outskirts of the city. Customs clearance was achieved by late afternoon and unloading commenced at the SCT warehouse. Natasha, our director of SCT, had organised youngsters and adults from Ulookavie to assist and the work progressed well although the later stages were completed in the dark by using a minibus headlights directed into the rear of the big trailer. This was the end of the convoy work and after returning to the hotel it was out for a celebratory meal and a few beers.
As only two of the vehicles were returning to the UK Mike and Alan were to fly home to UK from Minsk and a 5am departure from the hotel was required for the minibus ride of over 3 hours in time for the flight. The remaining four members spent Friday and Saturday on private visits to friends and the families of children who had visited their families in UK in previous years. They left Gomel for home on Sunday and made the planned Tuesday night ferry Rotterdam to Hull.
I started this report by saying that it was ‘business as usual’ and it was. The convoy was only possible because of the continued work of the wider team at home and the support and generosity of many people who provide aid and funds. The receivers in Belarus are very grateful for your support and I pass on their sincere thanks and best wishes.
29 November 2012