This newsletter was accompanied by our latest DVD. If you wish to order a free DVD please let us know via e-mail gabriela9@btinternet.com  

 

Dear friends

 

I am happy to report to you another very successful year, in particular the success of our last aid trip to Romania .As you all know I had to leave England early due to the early winter and snow in Romania. I was told by the Romanian weather bureau that this is one of the worst winters on record with temperatures sometimes dropping to minus 40. However I must admit that I did not spend any time in such temperatures although it would regularly get to minus 20 and minus 24. As you will probably see from our DVD, the road conditions off the main roads were absolutely catastrophic. On many occasions we had to use horses and carts and once or twice sledge and quite frequently good all shoe leather. You could only get to Nicoleta’s by walking.

The snow came early and very much like England came for a few days, stopped for a few days, on and off which actually made the road conditions terrible. As you will also see from the DVD after 4.30 in the evening we were pretty limited because the darkness was coming early. But I can very happily report that I have managed to get to every Godchild’s home and more to families that have no godparents but are on our social list. I managed to get a short video of most of the Godchildren at home or at school, sometimes in the street together with photos. At the same time we were giving them the Godparent’s presents together with Convoy aid’s Christmas boxes and general humanitarian aid. You will probably appreciate that although the videos are very short I was limited for time and I had to distribute to 600 named Godchildren which also included Convoy aid boxes and presents for their brothers and sisters who we never leave out, even though they may not have Godparents. We also had some special projects with the street people, old people, schools and the old people’s hospital which were all extra projects not to mention Nicoleta.

My work this time was definitely under pressure as I needed to leave Romania on a specific date just before Christmas to get the 10 dogs out of Romania for Chrissie’s Animal charity in London. The proceeds in payment for the dog transportation, is Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 2 | P a g e

 

very important to our travel costs. UK law (Defra) demands that there must be a minimum of one handler per five dogs. Consequently I had to come back to England with Ion and Gheorghita, the younger lad, to help me with walking, feeding, cleaning and generally carrying for the dogs. This was especially needed with the freezing conditions. So prior to our leaving for Romania we knew that we would have 10 dogs at £150 each which gave us a total of £1500. This money was payable to Convoy aid Romania as a donation from the London dog charity. It all sounds absolutely ridiculous that Chrissy’s charity had to make a donation to our charity and it could not be put down as payment for work .So it works out that we voluntarily transport the dogs on our vehicle and Chrissy voluntarily gives us £1500 donation. Otherwise red tape would get involved and it will all be ridiculous.

This amount covered the cost of fuel and ferry fees to and from Romania plus road taxes. There was also sufficient left over for Gabriela to arrange two cheap Wizz Air flights to Romania for the lad’s return for Christmas and also get back to England in the New Year. The flights were really cheap when booked very early. The lads set off with me with the dogs, extra batteries, jump leads, shovel, and bags of sand, wedges, and mats, everything we considered necessary to get us over the snow covered mountains. As you will see from the DVD we encountered snow and both good and bad conditions right across Europe to the ferry. We managed to arrive in England on the 18th of December. We dropped 3 dogs off in Germany and the other five dogs came to England. The reason we brought back only 8 dogs and not 10 as we initially said is because two of the pups died after receiving rabies injections before they arrived to me in Bivolari. Maybe I should mention at this time that there should have been 4 puppies and a mother destined for Germany. Two puppies’ died and the other two gave me even bigger complications by having pneumonia. I had to look after these dogs for nearly 3 weeks leading up to our journey home. This made it touch and go for the pups. The pups had to be fed throughout the day and night; also medication including antibiotics and tablets to help them breathe had to be administrated regularly. I had to have the dogs in a cage in the living room to keep them extra warm and although it was a privilege to help them live it was a nightmare to look after them.

 

The mother and pups now settled in Germany Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 3 | P a g e

 

When we travelled to Germany we kept the two little pups and the mother in the front of the vehicle where we could keep them warm and have them fed regularly and since our return I had news from Chrissie that they are all doing very well indeed. Anyway when we arrived in England we dropped one of the dogs off in Kent, two in Potters Bar in London and the last one, a little white one to be reunited with her sister, who has been housed some months ago in Sheffield. At the end of all this we got back to Stockton on Tees , the lads moved back into their caravan-home and we spent the next few days cleaning the van and cages and disinfecting everything , a little bit of cleaning up in the yard as it was left in a mess in our hurry to leave. As I said before, Gabriela got some really cheap flights for the lads.

On the 22nd we set off for Luton airport. The weather was not all that good, the roads were not fantastic but it was a necessary journey. The lads flew to a town called Timisoara in the south west of Romania followed by a seriously long trip by train in the winter to get home to Bivolari- 16 hours plus on a freezing cold train over the mountains. This however got them home just in time for Christmas. They both have return tickets to go by train to Timisoara and then back to Luton on the 25th of January when I will have to go and pick them up. We will then start getting ready for the next big truck. We will have many things to do- collections, repairs of our vehicles; prepare the next load, etc. However, to take advantage of our trip to Luton, if there is any Godparent in Luton area who would like us to collect anything, this is the day I could do it. If it is a little further than Luton and they are prepared to pay the difference in diesel I can do this also. I could also collect anywhere between Luton and Teesside going down to A1 to Leeds, if anyone wishes to send parcels or anything, the 25th of January is a good time.

I hope everybody agrees with us that the dog transportation project , although it is difficult and fairly uncomfortable for me and the lads, 3 men and 3 dogs sleeping in one van for 4-5r days is quite enough, however it does help us financially as a charity , to get our van literally to Romania and return. That was always an expense that was justified by the fact that it was cheaper than airfares and that we always need the van for the off road quick delivery of the aid to your Godchildren. For many years we have looked for a way of financing the diesel, the ferry and road taxes. Chrissy has given us the ideal solution. Comfy or not it has to be done and the reality is that a dog’s life in Romania can be seriously bad. There are very few places of rescue or organisations, lots of good dogs especially pups are killed.

I think you all know that both me and Gabriela, although we are primarily in Romania to help children, we have always actively tried to help cats and dogs in obvious distress. But this does not always mean bringing dogs to England, this could mean feeding them, getting them veterinary help if needed or actually finding them a shelter. This does not take much of our time. If you see 3 puppy dogs dumped on the side of the road, miles from anywhere it takes only a minute to pick them up, put them in the van, in a box , give them some food and when you are ready drop them off to the nearest animal sanctuary . This can take a day or two but could you just Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 4 | P a g e

 

drive by and leave them? We can’t. But at the same time if anyone can give us any help regarding dog and cat food this would be absolutely great because we cannot take money from our charity belonging to our Godchildren.

One of the jobs I need to do as soon as the lads come back to England is to try to collect clothing, shoes, etc for our next big consignment. In the past years it has became harder and harder to get clothing donated especially from schools that use to be our savour. As a charity unfortunately our Godparents are spread out all over the country and it would not be economical to drive about picking up a couple bags in say Preston, a couple more in Hull, maybe 4-5 bags in Norwich or Kent. I think you get the picture. We might fill a van but it would cost so much in diesel to just drive around that it would not be financially viable. However if someone was doing a huge collection like our friends in Bristol, Blackpool and Workington it is then worth the expense to go and collect these things.

Although most of our Godparents would like to help by collecting clothing it is not fare to expect most of them to be able to collect a quantity sufficient for us to afford to pick up. We have to balance all our donated goods with the actual cost of transportation and distribution. At the end of the day the wagon cannot leave the UK unless we have raised sufficient funds through the Godparents £ 1 a week donations to cover the combined cost of pickups, transportation and distribution. Yet the reality is that one cannot put a value on the donated clothing. It has been suggested to us that we should buy the clothing using the transport money from second hand shops that do exists in Romania. These shops are quite expensive. They are not as expensive as new clothing but the volume of people that we give free good quality clothing and household fabrics to ( curtains, bedding, towels, etc) are so many that it also comes down to volume.

If in Romania clothes can be bought for argument sake for £1 for a pair of trousers, the same for a jacket etc., we have two thousand families on our social lists. All of them would like at some time throughout the year to receive some clothing from us to replace worn clothing. Although these people are on our social lists and do receive things from us they are not guaranteed. However we do have 600 named Godchildren, these are your Godchildren who generally have siblings, mothers, fathers and more often than not grandparents living in the same house. It has become normal that whilst making sure that your named Godchildren are guaranteed clothing, shoes, toys and when possible and absolutely necessary medicine and food.

I think you will appreciate the volume of things we need to take. When these clothes are given to us absolutely free with only the expense of pick up transport and distribution , this then becomes a realistic proposition, because we can take as much clothing as we can fit in a huge articulated truck , the largest you will see on British roads. I have never done it yet but if you counted every article of clothing that we take and put a value of, for argument sake 50p on it, I do not think Convoy aid will Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 5 | P a g e

 

ever have sufficient money from the Godparent’s pound a week to purchase that quantity in Romania. If you also consider that we take beds, mattresses , small furniture and brick a brack, tools, medicines, food, bicycles, cutlery, kitchen utensils, school equipment and furnishings, medical equipment we rarely reach the 22 tonne weight allowance that the trucks can carry. Our donated goods are generally more about volume than actual weight.

The main heavy things that we often carry are donated second hand double glazed windows, the type that we were going to fit in Nicoleta’s house. However we have made enquiries and we are told that the way these second hand companies work in Romania is that they can transport double the quantity of clothing than is normal for an ordinary articulated truck. They do this by putting them in a special plastic bag which is pressed in a machine in a cube at the same time taking out the air. They can make a tonne of clothes fit into the space that would normally be sufficient for ½ a tonne. We are at present trying to find a company local to Teesside that can actually press these clothes into a cube for us. If we can find one and it is not too much of an expensive process it could be that we can actually double the quantity of clothing that we send. This would be absolutely marvellous. To be honest one of our biggest problems in Romania is clothing. Most of our families live in the rural areas which is very hard on shoes and clothing. Many of these families do not have access to washing powder, water can also be a problem and I am afraid it is a fact that the clothing we deliver is a consumable and it is consumed and worn into the ground. Considering many of these people need in the winter to actually sleep in the clothing, consequently it seems that we are constantly renewing worn out raggy clothes. Sad but it is the reality.

This story that is going around about second hand clothing shops in Romania with reasonably priced clothing being correct , never the less if you are a non income family with no disposable income you cannot afford to purchase anything . Add to that the fact that most of these shops are 40-50km away in the cities, most of the people we are talking about would not even have the means to get there. To be absolutely honest with you there is a weekly market in most villages where people sell second hand clothes but again if you do not have money you cannot buy them. That is where Convoy aid comes in.

As you all know we are a Romanian registered foundation and as such we cannot apply for a door to door clothing collection licence in the UK. And even if we did we could not possibly compete with the big organisations we all know. Most of you will receive their bags through the door on a more than regular basis. In fact the 12 biggest charities in the country have a dispensation from the government that gives them a permanent licence to collect door to door anywhere and anytime they wish without first complying with all the local council licensing and bylaws. The printing of their bags and door to door literature and the cost of their bags is so high that there is no way a small charity could do anything like it. If you wish to add to that all the wide boys pretending to work for legitimate charities put together with the people Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 6 | P a g e

 

who actually state on their literature that they are not a charity but a recycling company and they do support charities (meaning they send a small donation occasionally to a charity of their choice) . If you wish to add the recycling companies now asking schools all over the country if they can have recycling days of clothing from the students; the clothing is purchased with the view to using the money for school equipment etc. And just recently shops have opened in Teesside purchasing good quality second hand clothing by the kg.

I think taking all this into consideration you will realise just how difficult it is for us to fill a truck with this much needed aid. We manage to do it every time but not without unbelievable work, many hours of driving and without the help of volunteers or the two Romanian lads I admit I could not do it single handed. Thank God for our Godparents in Workington, Blackpool, Liverpool and Bristol who work tiresly throughout the year to help us fill these trucks. I am absolutely sure that on occasions we would have not reached our target without their fantastic help. If anyone else out there who has a spare room or garage and time to spare and would like to collect clothing from neighbours, friends, work mates and relatives please let us know. Pauline in Bristol occasionally puts hand written notes down both sides of her road telling people that she is collecting clothing for Romania. Over 2-3 months she generally has a garage full for us. So if anybody else can come up with any good ideas about clothing we would like to hear, shoes, boots anything like that, they are all very important to non income families. It is not difficult because all your neighbours are getting other charities bags through the doors on a more than frequent basis. If you would like to give us a call we can actually send you some leaflets in an envelope to put through people’s doors. I think you may be surprised as to how much support you can get when you can confirm to your friends, relatives and neighbours that you actually witness through our DVD’s , etc, that the clothing actually get to where they are supposed to.

Which brings me to the pain in my life, Nicoleta. You will all recall that many of you sent letters of complaint to the editor of the newspaper in Iasi. To your credit, over 300 people responded. I appreciate that some people did not have time to do this but the response itself was absolutely great. What I can tell you is this. On my arrival in Romania I went to see the editor of the newspaper having already had one conversation with him over the telephone. It became very evident that he had no intention of publishing any stories that will bring pressure on the authorities to resolve Nicoleta’s problems. The conversation with this newspaper editor went something like this: firstly he told me that he did not have a lot of staff to answer letters from England and it was unreasonable of us to send over 300 letters. He suggested that one letter would have been sufficient. Anyway in response he apparently sent a newspaper reporter and camera man out to Nicoleta’s. I think we might have shot ourselves in the foot. He said that his reporter has found Nicoleta in a reasonably clean bed with a good supply of Tena Pads, there were clean clothes there for her, there was food and the place had recently been repaired and Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 7 | P a g e

 

repainted. He was absolutely right, we, as a charity have done all of this. Nothing to do with Romanian social services or anything like that.

 

Nicoleta

 

He went on to say he was not in the business of internationally embarrassing Romania and that Nicoleta’s case was only one of many. It could be said that there are far worse cases than Nicoleta’s. I absolutely believe that! He, on behalf of whom I do not know, thanked us for our care and assistance but without apology said he could not publish anything regarding Nicoleta. So we are now back at square one. Our friends Barbara and Howard from Workington have found 4-5 friends that would be willing to help us if we are going to find sufficient sponsors to pay for her day to day care that she really needs. However when we made a local collection, some people upon hearing the story of Nicoleta, very enthusiastically volunteered that their church would raise the £35 per week . This was estimated to be needed to pay a worker to look after Nicoleta for half a day split into 2 shifts, morning and evening every day. I thanked them very much on behalf of Nicoleta; they said that the first payment would be in the bank the following week. They were very adamant about it and very enthusiastic. No payment has reached us as yet and no further contact has been received from them to date.

As you all know I am always very cautious about jumping in. I have found one woman who will look after Nicoleta on a regular basis giving her 4 hours in the morning an 4 hours in the afternoon which would be sufficient to ensure that Nicoleta Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 8 | P a g e

 

was bathed at least twice a day, cleaned when she woke up and bathed and dressed for bed because it is absolutely sure that the mother and the brother are incapable of either. The chance of getting Nicoleta into an institution is getting less and less each day .We are now into January and we have heard nothing from the Pentecostal church in County Durham. It could be that the church has changed its mind or it does not have the funds....I do not know. However we have 5 sponsors from Barbara in Workington, we have a couple of people from Liverpool and I am not sure exactly how many Marianne from Bristol has managed to get interested. But if the church fails to come through my next important project will be to find 35 people who would be interested to sponsor the Nicoleta project with a donation of £1 a week. The reality is a day’s wage for a man in Romania for 12 hours is around about £10. Half a day for £5 for a woman doing only 8 hours and not 12, although the work is not nice, it is what would be expected. I have already spoken to this woman and she agrees that she has the time, her husband is not working, the children are at school and they have no income therefore this would be a great help to their family as well.

I think safe guards can be set up and training given so that Nicoleta would benefit from this. So if anyone out there would like to find sponsors for Nicoleta £1 a week, the sooner we manage to do this the sooner we can actually get things moving. I was frightened to set this up at Christmas, firstly because I did not know if we have the finances and secondly because I could not spare that amount of money each week from Convoy aid’s already stretched budget. Nicoleta will manage until we go back; we have already set in place somebody to call in every few days with Tena pads because on this trip we were told by the woman that wishes to work with Nicoleta that Nicoleta’s mother was actually exchanging the Tena pads for home made wine. We know the situation, we know it is not right but we do this for Nicoleta and not for the mother.

It would not be right to walk away from Nicoleta because her mother and brother are alcoholics. The intention now is to possibly train this woman in the basics needed to perform her duties with Nicoleta, quickly and efficiently and to set something up with the local priest or someone from our friends to pop in at different times without announcement to make sure the woman is doing her job and not just collecting her wages. We have taken the disability chairs as you will see on the DVD to Nicoleta, we tried her on them, they are great, and they came from our friend in Bristol. However if left to the mother she will never use them. But if this woman is employed, Nicoleta will actually get some freedom for 4-8 hours a day that is freedom from the bed.

We are hoping next summer to have some physio-therapists visiting with us in Romania and obviously have some input into Nicoleta’s day to day life. This Christmas just getting to Nicoleta’s house was an absolute nightmare, the vehicle got stuck twice on the way and the lads and the girl had to walk a long distance through the snow. Anyway you will see lots of this on the DVD. Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 9 | P a g e

 

I would like to thank everyone for the letters. I am sure that somewhere along the line they would have done some good and should we need to we can honestly refer to them and their existence in the future if need be. Thank you all, job well done.

We have finally managed, with the help of Dr Moldovan to get practically unlimited access to Bivolari old people’s home. You will see on the DVD that we went around just before Christmas and delivered suitable parcels to all the old people, both men and women, some of whom are suffering from dementia and mental health disorders. Some of the people are just poor, old, and ill and cannot manage at home. It is a sad place as you will see but everyone was pleased to receive the presents. We also delivered towels to everyone and we have been asked by the doctor if it is possible in the future to supply night dresses and pyjamas for the patients. So that is one of our small projects for the following months. Commodes, Zimmer frames and walking sticks we can always use them. We are looking for rugs rather than carpets, rugs can be taken outside, cleaned and beaten. The carpets tend to get dirty and left inside.

All of our food supplies were totally exhausted and I must absolutely thank Joy and Ron and all our friends from Blackpool. I telephoned Joy from Romania, over Christmas to ask her if we could use one of her hampers that we could not find the people she sent it for to see if she was in agreement with sharing this food with other people in serious trouble, with no food. Of course the answer was yes, and I have to say that their food parcels made a huge difference in the lives of seriously poor people. I cannot tell you how bigger difference. I have just found out that Ron and Joy were voted as the parents of the year in England. They fostered hundreds of children over many many years and it is a pleasure every time we go to their house in Blackpool, there is always a house full of their current and past fostered children of all ages who are an absolute credit to them, always polite and helpful when loading the vehicle, especially the little boy that she is fostering at present from a baby. I do not think he is at school yet but he is a real character and thanks to Joy and Ron, he will have a good future. Such a full life ! Joy works as well yet she still has time to have more than one Godchild and collect for Convoy aid and fill a huge van, at least 3 times a year together with their friends and neighbours Mr and Mrs Hinds. We thank you on behalf of all that benefited from your help. Convoy aid Romania newsletter January 2011 10 | P a g e

 

I have to thank Pauline Sparkes from Bristol for her very special keep warm project supplying us with a lot of new hot water bottles to be donated to old people in Romania. Job done , thanks Pauline, Jeff and Chris. We would also like to thank Manor paints in Thornaby who have supplied us with paint for Nicoleta’s and many other projects. I do not know if they realise what a change you can make to someone’s life with a bit of colour. I would like to thank all the people that have organised coffee mornings for us, boot sales, jumble sales and other events helping us raise funds. Although we have 600 Godparents at presents every time we do a wagon, by the time it goes we are always running close to the end of the finances and it is usually by way of small donations from such events that we manage to make ends meet. It is true; we are a small charity doing very big work with very small money. My only wish is that other big charities will do the same. We have witnessed so much money being thrown away, misspent and unnecessarily spent by big charities that it is upsetting that sometimes we have to wait a week or two for the sake of £100 or less to secure the success of a project. I think you can see where I am coming from. I am not just calling other charities with no reason, I just find it hard to believe that they are so well off with money in reserve that they do not bother to try and save money by looking for cheaper options including cheaper airflights. The things Convoy aid has to do to make ends meet other charities would not even bother. I am now going to stop before I say too much.

 

Can we thank you all for your work and support and wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year and I am sure that the people in Romania would Echo our thanks. Rod