The grass is long and unkempt – and the air is one of desertion. We look through the railings, bags in hand. We’ve come thousands of miles but it looks like there is no-one home to accept what we have brought.
Our taxi driver Martin – who is now an honorary member of the team – starts asking local people if they know what has happened to the children. He gets a blank looks from most people, but then he talks to a man sat on the bench in a damp park between the tower blocks. The man thinks he knows, and points us in the direction of a block round the corner.
We walk further on down the quiet leafy street. Then a sound reaches our ears – children playing and laughing from an upstairs window. It’s coming from a centre behind a fence, and we follow the metal railings until we come to a gate. There’s no sign or bell, but the gate is unlocked, so cautiously we step into the compound.
We ring the bell and a man greets us. He has a warm smile, but is slightly puzzled as to who we are. Once again, Martin steps forward and explains who we are. The man knows the orphanage we’re talking about – again, it has been closed down. The man says that the larger places have splintered into many smaller locations. He runs a refuge for children who have been taken into protection by police because they were no longer safe with their families. There are ten children at his location, between the ages of three and twelve.
We explain that we would like to give them a shipment, and explain what’s in the bags. The man is delighted, and brings us upstairs to meet the children that we have heard through the window. The place is very clean, but feels bare. They are talking good care of the children, but they don’t have a lot of money to do it with.
He talks to the children, who are looking at us first with surprise, then looking increasingly happy as the mans explains why we are there. I look down to see a boy of about three, who looks at me with a quizzical expression. I give him a smile and a wave, and he gives me a big smile back.
As we drive away through the rainy Sofia traffic, we are all talking in the car (Martin included – he has embraced his role as our local agent!) A lot of the time we deliver to larger institutions, and so we are able to provide a small amount of help to a large number of children. This drop was the opposite – we provided lots of supplies to a small number of children, all of whom we met. This one seemed more personal somehow. There are many centres like that in Sofia, and the talk in the car is all about how we can find them and deliver to them.
I think of the boy that smiled at me, and how he will have a bear to cuddle up with tonight, as well as pens and colouring pencils and toys to play and learn with tomorrow, and new clothes to wear.
It’s time to leave Sofia, but we know that we will be back in the near future. We’ve made a small start, but there is more to do yet, and we can’t wait to come back with more help for those who need it.
(If you’d like to help us do that, then please join our sponsorship club.)
NOTES FOR EDITORS
DeliverAid was founded in January 2017 to provide sustainable and direct assistance to children who are at risk or face disadvantage in refuges, orphanages, and camps internationally. The team’s efforts are powered by a sponsorship syndicate of philanthropic businesses. The DeliverAid team itself consists of a small core of media and project professionals who are looking to do something worthwhile, who are ably aided by volunteers both in the UK and overseas. Wherever possible, the team purchases supplies from UK charities so that they also substantial benefit from the expeditions. As well as delivering supplies, the team also provides computer equipment and training as part of their Bootstrap Programme to allow the children to develop skills that will not only assist themselves in building a better life, but which will also create employment and opportunity within their community.
For Further Information
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