It’s a rainy day in Sofia as the DeliverAid team touch down for the first time in Bulgaria. We see our bags being unloaded onto a baggage cart on the fine grey drizzle as we hop into a huge bus and wait for a few minutes to be driven 100 yards across the tarmac to the airport building.
We are accosted by many taxi drivers in the arrivals lounge. One waits patiently whilst we change some money into the local currency – the Bulgarian Lev. His English is pretty good, and he helps us with our bulky delivery bags, which fill his cab completely.
We speed through the city, which has a definite ex-Soviet feel to it. Identical tower blocks roll away on all sides. The rain darkens their concrete sides like running mascara. Our driver is called Martin, and we tell him what we are here to do – he’s pleasantly surprised. What he doesn’t know is that he will soon be part of the team. After our experiences in Serbia, we know how much the drivers on these expedition contribute – as navigator, translator and often negotiator.
When we do these trips, we prepare as well as we can. But we know that the plan will always hit problems. (It’s hard to get everything spot on from a range of 2000 miles even with the advantages of the internet.) In this case, the orphanage appears to be closed down. We walk around trying to see if there is anyone left at all.
Fortunately, at that moment, a small blue car pulls up and a lady gets out. We go and talk to her, or rather we stand with an expression of polite interest whilst she and Martin chat away in Bulgarian – and she confirms that the orphanage has been closed for a year now. It seems the government made changes to the laws, and many of the larger children’s refuges were simply disbanded.
But by extraordinary good luck, it turns out that she is the director of a centre that helps disabled children – and someone who will be a perfect recipient for what we have brought.
We bring the car round and start to carry the bags up to her office. (The image above shows some of the bags so you can see what we deliver – thousands of pens, pencils, toys, clothes and other kids essentials – including soft toys 😉 )
The corridors are painted with friendly cartoons of animals – which remind us strongly of places we have seen in other parts of the world, in Africa, in Poland … the bright colours transform the corridor into an undersea adventure.
The lady is very happy with what we have brought. There are 145 children at her establishment – so each child will receive a good amount of pens and pencils as well as number of items from collection of clothes toys and sports equipment. As a way to say thank you, she gives us some decorations the children have made.
As we head out towards our next destination, we stop to look at the garden. A small climbing frame and some flowers growing in brightly painted car tyres. We wish we could have brought more – but everything has to start somewhere, and one day we will come back here with a larger shipment.
(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.
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