17th September 2014 to 22nd October 2014

On 10th September we had packed the container with the help of family members, friends and eight members of the Rotary Club of Market Rasen. The contents included 20 pallets of high quality food, 4 pallets of school books and 450 boxes of medical aid and new clothing which I had packed.

Our first days in Varna were spent visiting various Schemes we had helped in the past to see what the present situation was and what their needs were. We accepted invitations to visit the Association for Women to meet the ladies they help and visited the Home for Children at Vinitsa to deliver some beautiful cot blankets and clothing that had been donated for the babies there.

Vinitsa has changed greatly since the first time we visited. Then there were 350 children under 3 years, now only 87. The Government has been making great efforts to place children for adoption and are giving very high allowances to those who foster children. This home looks after a lot of children who are in need of constant medical supervision, children with hydrocephalus for instance, but their parents can visit at any time and help to care for them. This too has changed. When we first went there visiting was very restricted and the whole place very regimented. All that has changed. It is good to see improvements

The Director the Home has made great efforts to find foreign sponsors and the Home now has the very best facilities in Bulgaria for 're-habilitating' children and helping them to overcome their difficulties. A creche has been established for parents to bring their children with special needs to, so that they can enjoy socialising and get help with their problems. It is very rewarding to see such progress.

Once the container arrived in Varna the real work began. We were very fortunate to have the very valuable help of about a dozen young people from the Rotaract and Interact Clubs as well as some Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Varna Euxinograd. The youngsters were quite fantastic. Not only did they all speak English but they worked so hard and enthusiastically that the whole container was emptied and everything sorted in two hours flat compared with twice as long on previous occasions. There was no slapdashery. They did exactly as they were asked. If they were asked to put 120 tins on the pile for St Joan's that is exactly what they did; not 119 or 121. If we picked up so much as a jar of jam, one of them would say "Let me do that. We're here to do the work." We were so proud of them. It is very comforting to know that there are such young people in the world today.

During the next 10 days we visited all the institutions that had received donations. At many of them the work they were doing was impressive but the situation was heart rending. We were visiting a soup kitchen run by a Catholic Church, Archangel Michael's. Before the distribution Father Ivan held a short service to give thanks for the food about to be eaten.

The helpers had been experimenting. They had made the normal 200 litres vegetable soup for the 180 people that day. (Some days they make 300 litres) They had then added 18kg of the Tuna that we had donated. (We make the donations as high protein as we can) Many recipients came back to the priest in charge to tell him it was the best soup that he had ever made!

One particular memory of that quite emotional day will stay with me. Our donation of other items meant that, in addition to the soup, each person was given a carrier bag with some extra jars and tins of food. My lasting memory is of a little decrepit old man who, when given his soup and parcel, took off his hat, bowed his head and crossed himself. He was so grateful that, not only had he food for today but he had food for tomorrow as well.

We were able to arrange for Father Ivan to distribute warm fleeces, long sleeved sweatshirts and some hooded jackets to those he knew to be most in need. This new clothing in a range of sizes was donated by a Rotarian in Wellingborough and will help those who received it to keep warm.

At 7.30 am one rather cold, misty morning we went to another Soup Kitchen that feeds up to 800 people a day. Here, there were more younger people who collected soup and bread for their families. We were overwhelmed by thanks for the food parcels and blessings for our work to help them.

We are getting older and had found that the work we do in England was taking its toll, but all thoughts of 'slowing down' disappeared like the mist as the sun came up. How does one walk away from such need, especially when ones' efforts are so much appreciated? We'll have to find some help here in England somehow, so please offer if you can.

St Andrei's is an organisation that runs an 'Home' in Kitchova, a village outside Varna. They have approximately 80 children aged from 3 to high school age. Some of the children live there during the week and go to relatives at the weekend. There are two kindergarten classes held every day and the older children go to school with the village children. They were delighted with the toys we took, especially the dolls' house.

St Andrei's also run an 'outreach' scheme helping vulnerable people who live alone in Varna. Many of them are elderly and sick. These people are visited every day and St Andrei's help with food parcels and medicines. The visitors are nurses and can administer the medication doctors have prescribed (eg injections). In Bulgaria everyone has to buy their medicines and these can be very expensive.

We visited an sixty five year old woman with mobility problems, who looked after her 85 year old Mother (who suffered with dementia and was incontinent) in their one room apartment on the eighth floor of the block. It had a good view of the harbour and the now defunct shipyards, but that was all it had going for it! There was no heating. They had a wood burning stove but it smoked so badly that they couldn't use it. They couldn't afford the fuel anyway as half their income (£12 each per week) went on the mother's medicine! Their gratitude for the food parcel was overwhelming. As the lady explained how they would use the food and what it meant to them we were very close to tears. That a bag full of tins and packets of food means so much and could bring such genuine pleasure is very humbling when we have so much.

In Asparuhova, an area of Varna, there was a flood three months before. I think a dam had burst and a wall of water had swept all before it including the road up the little valley. The authorities were obviously on the job pretty quickly as they were working on the new road which was half complete and had started rebuilding some of the affected houses. Some, however, were privately owned or rented and not insured and although there have been some emergency grants made there are still 100 families classed by the Red Cross as most in need, in temporary accommodation or trying to 'live' in properties with walls missing! Since we returned home food parcels have been distributed to these most needy families by Mrs Nencheva of the Association for Women from the donation we made to the Association.

One morning we went to their Office and food parcels were given to about 100 widows with many more being delivered to housebound people known to the Association. Their paperwork is always very clear with donees signing for their parcels and all the donation accounted for. The last words they said to us before wishing us a safe journey home, were, 'You will come again, won't you?'

Our delivery to the hospital also brought great joy. All the boxes were taken to St Marina hospital and sorted there. Some of the items would later go to the Chest and Orthopaedic hospitals. As one of the Paediatricians was examining one box she found an item of equipment that delighted her. She squealed in surprise, hugged it to her chest and looked as though all her Christmases had come at once! They really value everything we take. The Nurses uniforms we took will also be very useful there.

Rotarians from Provadia collected the donation for the Home for Disabled People which is located in an old train station building on the outskirts of the town. They took us along to deliver and make a visit there.

Fourteen years' ago the Home these people lived in was burned down accidentally and the 'Home' was re-housed - temporarily - in this old train station. 76 disabled people, most use wheelchairs, are housed here. The old Booking Hall is their dining room and social area and the old offices are the bedrooms and total living space for those who are bed-fast. Three, four, five beds to a room. End to end, with a commode at the far end. Not a curtain in sight, no privacy at all and precious little dignity! There is one shower and one toilet on each floor for up to 40 people. Those who are upstairs cannot come down because there is no lift or ramp. There are some very old, rusted runners on one staircase but as the staircase is quite steep, these runners are extremely difficult to use and the person pushing the wheelchair has to take the whole weight of the chair and the person in it. The majority of the Carers are older women and are not physically strong enough to do this.

Not all of the people are old. There is one young man of 26 who has very deformed feet. He has taken part in some 'wheelchair' sports with some success but the chairs break and he really needs a proper sports wheelchair. Friends here have been trying to find an 'outgrown' one here in England but without success so far. A new one costs about £3000. The local Rotary Club has provided the Home with three desktop and two lap-top computers. Constantin uses one of the computers and took great delight in showing me pictures on it - of our visit there last Christmas.

Another younger woman is 36 years old. She has cerebal palsy and is completely bedfast but she always has a smile and a welcome for us. Another old lady reminded me to send the photographs I took of her at Christmas. All of them were delighted that we were able to give them personal gifts to enjoy.

We are hopeful that the local Rotarians will be able to improve the building and make conditions more tolerable for them if they are not moved, very soon, into a more suitable building.

The organisation St Joan's that cares for 45 children with special needs also received a donation of food to help in their care. They provide lunch and tea each day as well as teaching the more able youngsters to cook. A similar scheme just outside Varna received the super brown leather 'floor cushion' that was more like a settee, filled with 'beads'. The children absolutely loved it because no matter their problem, they could get comfortable on it. The Rotarians from Provadia also donated the new shoes and socks the children needed for the winter season.

Our final call, the day before we left Varna was in a village called Zdrawets, just outside Varna to the South. The people running one of the soup kitchens had been offered, on a long lease, a large house in this village. The house had been empty for a long time and was very neglected but they and their volunteers had thoroughly cleaned it, made some alterations so that it met the regulations and will open it very soon as a home for elderly people. They had worked very hard to make, raise money or get sponsorship for everything needed and with the exception of a washing machine had succeeded. We agreed to buy them the washing machine. As this was our last day we did not have time to purchase it ourselves but were able to delegate that task to a very good friend in Varna who has since accomplished this for us.

So, once again, Mission Accomplished but we have many requests again.

Quantities of Good quality new shoes/boots are needed for men and women, in all sizes from 34 to 46!
Quantities of Single bedding are needed by the Home in Provadia. Warm coats are also needed.
We think we will have to approach manufacturers for these and this will involve more fund-raising.

Food is desperately needed. The queues at the Soup Kitchens get longer and the people needing help younger although the vast majority of them are still the elderly. This again, involves fund-raising.

The transport charge for a 40' container is approximately £2700.
The food we send is obtained through Hisfood, a charity based in Lincolnshire.
We pay £125 a pallet 'handling charge' and aim to take at least 20 pallets.
We are hoping that Companies, Clubs or Individuals in this country may like to 'Sponsor a Pallet' of food. We will guarantee to deliver it to those most in need.

This trip we distributed over 1500 food parcels to people who are in desperate need.
They really appreciated our help (we were overwhelmed with thanks) and need much more.

These Elderly people have worked all their lives and should have had a comfortable retirement but because of political changes at the end of last century, through no fault of their own, they are in the position of having to depend on Soup Kitchens to keep body and soul together.

Anyone who can help can email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Contact us through the website:
Leave a message on telephone: 01482 667232

The next Fund-raising Event will be a Christmas Fair at the Village Hall, Bilton, East Yorkshire.
Open 10am to 3pm. Lots of stalls, Tombola, Raffle, Mulled wine & mince pies and Candyfloss!

A Spring Fair is planned on 21st March 2015 at Montague Mills Outlet Store, Goole.

Donations for the Raffle or Tombola will be gratefully received as will Monetary Donations and offers of help with our fund-raising. We need your help. Thank you.


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