Our latest Newsletter 

Hello

Because of the lengthy report and appeal on behalf of Nicoleta that has taken up several pages you may find that the remainder of our report /newsletter is a little more condensed than usual because the British postal system is quite expensive, according to weight. As all of our paper is cheap ASDA paper it seems to be quite heavy. We used to get paper donated from Ellie Doak, one of our Godparents who works in a paper company. She went on a maternity leave and we have not as yet managed to re-establish a possible supply of paper this far. Ellie love, any chance please?

This trip to Romania was very very successful in regards to firstly the Seed appeal. It was absolutely wonderful to see nearly every house in the surrounding villages have a good variety of mixed vegetables. In the past every house has grown corn on the cob, garlic, sunflower seeds and nothing much else. Firstly seeds in Romania are very expensive in the towns and can rarely be found in packets in the villages not to mention the fact that the families who were receiving them from you were non income families who could not purchase seeds anyway. The first families to be helped were those with named Godparents , the second were those on our social lists awaiting Godparents and thirdly were people that were poor and have not yet managed to be on our social waiting list. We try to help far more families than we are actually funded for. But the huge variety of vegetables, tomatoes, etc. had boosted the health of the villages and lots of these families will now, if they have the facilities, preserve vegetables in different forms for the winter. I know it sounds silly but this can only be done if you have a jar with a lid on it. In Romania in the cash and carries we can find these jars quite large with lids for around 10 pence each. In the past people like Pauline have given us jars usually full of lentils and rice, etc. but to be honest some of them get broken on the journey and are quite heavy . I am not saying we do not want them but if someone wants to help their family in this way it is far simpler for me to go to the cash and carry in Iasi and buy them by the tray. New, clean with the tops, 24 in a tray which is �2.40. Fortunately for us not every Godparent sends huge amounts on the truck otherwise it would have limited the space for other prioritised things. Just an idea.

 Gail Edwards visited Romania this year and her account of the trip is to be found on a separate sheet. Gail organised her daughter�s school to make up 200+ parcels for children in Hermeziu village, the village where her sponsored child and family lives. She came out by plane to distribute them herself. The parcels were sent ahead in one of the two trucks we have sent this summer to Romania. Gail stayed with us in our spare room and she proved to be very organised and very helpful. She even left money to put a new floor in her Godchild's house which is now being done. We would like to thank Gail for all her help and assistance and Maddison (her daughter)'s school in Northampton. Unfortunately our friends from Asda all had prior commitments and could not come this year and as a matter of fact George/ASDA have changed their policy regarding charities and no longer help us with clothing and toys as they have in the past. Apparently the new regime, Wall Mart only wishes to help their own charities. This is sad as we have had a very good relationship with them over the years. Gail no longer works for Asda /George.

Also many thanks to Maddison for her personal input in this project which has been of great help to the children who received the gifts. On this trip because of new European transport regulations regarding transportation of animals we were only allowed to bring 5 dogs to the UK. These dogs are coming from a special dog compound in Galati. Chrissy who runs a dog charity in England tries to give these dogs a loving home. For every dog we bring to England our charity receives £150 donation which in turn helps pay for our diesel costs. On this occasion we raised £800 pounds that incidentally paid the fuel bills to and back from Romania. Well worth a few sleepless nights not to mention the odour that comes free of charge. Try sleeping in a van, 4 people and 5 dogs. Good fun.

The night before we left Ruby, one of the smaller dogs, nipped George in panic, jumped out of the van and disappeared into the darkness of the village. Talk about panic stations! All the dogs are chipped, have passports and have received tick treatment. The animals have to be in Calais inside of 48 hours to comply with regulations. If not, at my expense I would need to re-tick them at the vets in France. We have looked all over the village in the dark, up and down the streets, no chance! We waited until the next day and at 6am she was wondering around the streets looking for food. Of course she could not enter the gardens as most houses in Romania have their own dogs that are very territorial. Anyway we managed to get her captured and settled in the van and she is now living in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. She ended up travelling business class in the front of the van with the lads for the whole journey. She was no bother.

 We had to rapidly return to England in less than 48 hours. Practically nonstop driving. It was raining very badly most of the journey and after 2 months on Romania's treacherous roads and rutted mud dirt tracks and 40 degrees temperature almost every day, yet the vehicle rattled home. The exhaust is in need of repair, the directional bar and power steering are questionable, the breaks are not nonexistent but work reasonably and generally needs some TLC. And would you believe we have managed to buy two second hand Mercedes Sprinter tyres with reasonable threads fitted and put on the vehicle in Iasi for the unbelievable price of £16 each. Absolutely fabulous buy. In England, if you could find them second hand they would have been a minimum of £30 each. Of course we have kept the old tyres taken off in Romania for use on our next trip because although they are not acceptable on European roads they still have some life left in them in Romania. The old story: do not waste money. And as an old engine goes it is very fit. Give me an old van any day!

Interestingly as we were driving to Iasi one day we scooped up two puppies that were marching down the main high way having being dumped in the country side. Without much persuasion Chrissy from the London Charity got permission for us to get the dogs to Galati and we have been informed that they are both doing well, had all the injections and will shortly be housed in Holland. That is a nice feeling of a job well done. The amount of dogs on the Romanian streets is unreal. We carry dog food in the van, water and do what we can. But in the main we leave it up to the animal charities. It is very interesting to note that animal charities, especially the big ones do not seem to have any problems finding sponsors for puppy dogs. On the other side we find it so difficult to find godparent sponsors for little children. What has happened in the world??

The two wondering pups We would like to thanks the people who gave us the dog and cat food. We still need food but as before we cannot take money from convoy aid to support animals. It is the children's money. So once more we rely on donations if we are to continue helping the dogs and cats when we can.

The situation in Romania at this present time is the old story. The rich are getting rich and although it does not seem possible the poor are getting poorer. The day to day wages seem to be going up with inflation. However no matter what the wages are they seem to be only sufficient to buy the same quantity of food and things as always. The young people in their teens and early 20's are leaving the villages looking for paid work in Italy, Spain, and Germany in fact anywhere. This is men and women, boys and girls. The alternative seems to be sat at home with nothing. The downside to this is that their parents are left literally holding the baby looking after young children and trying to keep the homes going in their expectation of money being sent to them from their children working abroad. The reality is this rarely turns out to be the case. The money for the trip to whatever country they are going to is usually raised through the family borrowed or given. They find out in the country they arrive in the work is very low paid and accommodation, food and necessities are generally expensive.

There have been several success stories but they are very few and far between. One of the girls who worked for Convoy aid Romania 4 years ago Lili has been working as a carer in Italy for an old lady for these past 4 years. I am not sure but she may have 2 jobs in Italy but she has managed to save sufficient money to buy a house in the village with a little land. She has taken the driving test, passed it and this summer managed to purchase a small second hand car. She was herself employing two young lads during the summer to repair the new house. Lili is only in her thirties, a very pleasant person with a nice attitude to people. I am sure she is much appreciated as a carer in Italy.

The problem with this is is she should have to return home for any reason she will literally go back to square one because there would be no work for her. She would be in a good position of having a house of her own but a car she could not afford to run. These trips to Europe to work are only as good as the duration of the trip and depend very much on the person. If they drink or smoke heavily , go to bars or night clubs , whatever they earn disappears before there is an opportunity to send it back to support the family. So in my opinion this economic migration to other countries is temporary and people are looking to better their lives. In most cases they go back to the home town or village. Would we not all do the same given the situation?

So bottom line non income families in rural Romania are definitely the majority. People on the bread line absolutely exist, old people are struggling and the situation as regards the national health of the people in Romania is absolutely diabolical, disgusting and embarrassing. We are constantly being asked by parents if we can pay for prescriptions for medicine for their children. It is not sufficient that a present is expected from somebody before an examination takes place, prescriptions are given out and they have to be paid for at the pharmacy. If a child needs antibiotics or worming tablets, paracetamols, a prescription in the hands of a non income parent is worth nothing to the health of the child. Many times people come to our door and we send around to the pharmacy for the medicine. But a course of antibiotics can cost as much as £30 as I experienced myself with my pneumonia this summer. One child comes to mind absolutely covered in mosquito bites that were infected. The mother had been given a prescription for antihistamines and cream. Total cost £25. There is no answer to this.

The doctors now even suggest to mothers who they know cannot afford these medicines that they should go and see Rod and the English charity knowing that we can hardly say no. But to be sure we always send around to the pharmacy and physically purchase it. We do not give out the cash. Until recently convoy aid has not been in need of reserve cash for this type of thing but as the poverty in the area increases things like medicine for the children becomes a reality we cannot ignore. Consequently we will be trying to do a little bit more in the way of fundraising. On this trip back we brought quite a quantity of wood called dulap which is a little like scaffolding boards about 2 1/2 to 3 inches thick by 12 inches wide. It is very cheap by comparison with English pieces. We are coming home empty, other than the dogs, so we can carry quite a bit. We will be looking for buyers because it is excellent timber for furniture making or whatever.

 We also brought back some rustic cart wheels that we buy from gipsy scarp merchants and one or two very old milk churns that a local artist put pictures on. Again they will be sold and the funds will go into convoy aid Romania for the extra things that we need. We are looking every way we possibly can to find the extra money so that nobody will be turned away and no child will be ill for the cost of a prescription. As you all know the �1 a week the Godparent donates is generally spoken for and it is the basis for everything we do. We collect donated cloths, store them and pack them, transport them and distribute them. It is a very fine balancing act but to date, for the last 20 years we have managed to do exactly that. It is only recently that we are having to look for money. We do get the odd donation and coffee morning, the odd collection on our behalf from people like Lilian Welford, Pauline Sparkes, Knitting group from Ferryhill, Mrs Popplewell and others. But we can really do with a little more help. If anybody has the time to raise some funds for us it would be absolutely excellent.

 Some of you would have already met Ion and George who have come to England several times with me to help with the collections and the loading of the vehicles and generally do the physical things that my ill health and diabetes would not allow me to do. These lads both have families to support, George has no father. He has a mother and 6 brothers and sisters, one who is physically and mentally handicapped and in a wheelchair supplied by us and a girl of 18 who has a mental age of 7. George needs to support them. Consequently we do pay him for his work. The same with Ion, the older man. As we have told you before, were these two men not in England with me they would be in Romania with no work and no income. By agreement with them they live in the big caravan in our depot that has all the facilities they need , we supply them with food that we buy as cheaply as we possibly can usually from the reduced shelves in ASDA and late shopping. We also supply them with one packet of cheap Romanian cigarettes per day. By English terms this is very little but let us not forget we pay them in real Romanian terms a daily rate, for 5 days a week. This money they use to support their families in Romania as they normally would. So the way that we all view it is that the lads are doing the same work as in Romania for the same wage they would receive, for the same hours and the difference being that they volunteer to do this for Convoy aid in England. Make no doubt about this; we cannot afford to pay English hourly minimum wages to English lads to work for us. We do not have this type of finances. And again we find it extremely difficult to find any unpaid volunteers to load collect or do anything for charity. The whole system is actually against us.

 The volunteers that we could get from an organisation in town demands so many things like 2.5 million pounds worth of insurances , hard hats, safety boots, designated walk ways , qualified forklift drivers, every piece of electrical equipment needs to be tested. And it just goes on and on. We prefer to use our resources for the benefit of the children. And please believe me when I say that there are no shortages of lads in the villages in Romania that would volunteer on the same terms and I have a list of would be voluntary workers. It is not in my make up to take advantage of people like Ion or George and there are many fringe benefits they get. Quite often on our trips around to pick up things people give them the odd bit of cash to buy cigarettes or whatever. They do get a reasonable choice of clothing from our warehouse for themselves and their families and both lads collect their wage, buy things in car boot sales like electrical tools and things which are transported back to Romania when they leave and they do sell in the village for a profit. So as you have probably realised this suits both sides. Many of you would have met these lads and you will all see them on the videos. I hope this explains the situation to you. We do not have any secrets. If you wish to donate tinned food for them it would ease our expenses also.

 Lastly Gabriela is sending out all the information for the Christmas shoe boxes. Please see separate leaflet included in this newsletter. From the beginning of this year we find it increasingly difficult to get donations of clothing, shoes, bedding, blankets, and furniture. There are several reasons for this. One of the main reasons is that there are a multitude of both legal and illegal door to door clothing collections. Some are licensed some are not. But many of these organisations have found a new way of getting around council bylaws and licensing. Normally to do door to door clothing collection a charity would need a licence from the local council licensing department. The fine for not having one is so small they actually ignore it.

 In my experience, having advised the council of illegal collections the council has not followed it up. However many of the requests coming through the door state that they are not charities , that they are commercial recyclers yet they suggest in some cases that the goods are going to poor people in foreign countries or to be sold second hand to low income families in this country. These types of firms are not classed by the council as door to door charity collections. They are looked on more like the local rag man, scarp collector. The council saves money by not having to incur expensive court cases. These cloths are collected by these people, taken to a place to be sorted and it is true, often find their way to Eastern Europe, China, India, Pakistan to be sold to the population with a huge profit margin. I am told these companies pay up to £500 a ton. We cannot compete with this. We used to have clothes donated by schools, not very often now because these companies are actually offering the schools in most cases £200 a ton and quickly pocketing the extra £300 on the deal. This is big business; even the big charities are doing this. The clothing is going to the recyclers.

But let me tell you again what I know I told you before. As you have seen on our videos we give out tons and tons of clothing, bedding, shoes, belts and scarves and hats, you name it. It is all free. We sell nothing; we have too many people depending on us for suitable clothing for the winter and for the summer. You can take as many cloths as you like to Eastern Europe to sell but you will never sell it to non income families. So the families we deal with have no way of renewing clothing other than through us and your generosity. Again we cannot compete with companies who collect from the doorstep and immediately sell it. As you know we are a Romanian charity with a Romanian charity number and because we do not have a British charity number we cannot get a licence for a door to door collection. And we dare not do an illegal one. So we depend entirely for cloths on your generosity and occasionally schools who do not do clothing collection for recycling companies.

We are still looking for tables and chairs, small three piece suits, double beds in particular, bedding, curtains, jewellery, brick a brac, ornaments. This is because we do not only work with institutions, hospitals and schools in Romania but with hundreds of families which although poor would enjoy such items on their shelves or window sills. I have never met a girl yet in Romania that would not like a bracelet, a necklace, a broach, something nice even a used bottle of perfume. Please visit our website we have now set up a donation online page for those of you who prefer to send donations via internet. We are still very grateful to receive cheques or postal orders for general or specific things. No problems there.

 As Christmas approaches we would be even more grateful for any small donations because at this time of the year we always aim to send an extra truck so that more people have a more enjoyable Christmas. We usually struggle to find that extra money therefore any donation is even more needed and appreciated at Christmas. Just as a matter of interest, on our return to England the first letter we opened was from our landlord, a local solicitor suggesting once again that he wants to put up the rent by £200 per month. We cannot find anybody that wants to make a comment or suggestion regarding this from the legal people. So can anybody tell us, we had a 3 year lease that finished and was renewed, the second time it finished it was not renewed but it just carried on as normal. He has twice put up the rent over the years, he has made no repairs whatsoever, and they have all been done by us and even refused to pay out a claim for damage during a burglary. He has now just sent us a letter out of the blue saying he wants to put up the rent. Can anybody offer us some legal advice?

 We really cannot afford legal fees of £70 per hour yet we are very frightened that he might ask us to leave at a time when we are not physically or financially able to move at short notice due to the quantity of aid, forklifts, cabins, etc that would need moving. We need this information very soon if anyone can tell us the position we are in. Can we refuse to pay? Please help! We would like to thank you all for your support in the last year. Although our charity is small and may not be able to save the world it does make a great difference in the lives of thousands of people which is a great achievement for any charity never mind one that runs on a shoe string. But let it not be forgotten that without your help we could do nothing, we would cease to exist. Someone told me the other day that to save one child would not save the world but it would certainly save the world of that child. I think this is what we are working for. We cannot possibly help every child in Romania but the ones we manage to touch receive life changing help.

Thank you