Travail, triumph and triage...

Trip Start Dec 07, 2009
Trip End Dec 19, 2009

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Sofia Region,
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hello again from a sodden Bulgaria. After months of prep and weeks of intensive effort today the Trussell team actually managed to distribute some Christmas boxes. As the muppets would say: Yayyyy!

For Sophia, Lizzie and Valya the day started in a leisurely fashion at the House of Joshua (HoJ) as Mimi and Rich started work in Sofia. Every year the Trust transports hundreds of boxes for a group of churches from Devon who have had a long relationship with some orphanages near Varna, on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast. After these boxes travel on the Trust's truck to Sofia we then forward them. This year Mimi asked for help from a Coach Company she had done some work with previously and they agreed to let us put all the cases of Christmas boxes on one of their London-Sofia-Varna coaches.

So far, so good. We were told that we needed to get to the central bus station for 08.30 and meet the coach. The drivers were only mildy put out when they discovered that we had 95 large boxes to fit onto the coach along with the few passengers going on to Varna. How we laughed as passengers were asked to make way for a bunch of boxes; one guys' face was a special picture of confusion as a brain raddled by 30 hours of travel from London tried to accept that yes, his personal space was now being invaded by a bunch of boxes and that yes, he was being asked to leave the seat that had become his home for the last day and a half... Some passengers though gave us a hand to load the coach and we were soon on our way.

Then it was back to the warehouse to load the big van for Botevgrad and Skravena Roma communities. With both vehicles now fully loaded we convoyed back Botevgrad in the pooring rain for a rendezvous at HoJ with the girls and a quick turn around to get to our first Christmas box distribution at Skravena School.

It is always good to see our friends at the school. The children there are very excited about our annual visit and we enjoyed a well rehearsed rendition of various English language songs and poems before giving out the boxes. Many of the children at the school are from very poor families and it is great to see so many smiling faces as they all receive their gifts together. The schools' director told us how much they value the presents and described us their friends too which was a real blessing.

Next we delivered to two kindergartens connected to the school whilst the little ones slept. Father Christmas does deliver in normal working hours if you know who to ask...

Then we made tracks for Skravena Roma community and for Sophia and Lizzie a step into the unknown as they came face to face with the kind of grinding poverty that perhaps we have come to accept exsists in Africa and South America but comes as a real shock to see in a European Union country. Mud, rubbish, sewage and bare-footed kids are perhaps the first things to strike you but then you wonder why so many people in Bulgaria have been left to live like this and wonder at a political system that has consistently ignored or written off as worthless such a large chunk of society. It is always difficult to give out the presents in places like this (and Botevgrad Roma community too, which has the same problems but is four times the size): you are conscious that you want to make sure the process is dignified but Roma people are naturally a bit on the excitable side so you have to ignore the jostling and sometimes... heated debates that break out from time to time as the pecking of who gets their boxes first is sorted out. We do use a voucher system so that everyone gets a box and this usually works well.

The other reason that gift distribution is awkward is that you can't help feeling that surely there must be something more that can be done for these communities to improve their quality of life. To see where thinking like that gets you visit

Despite a bit of a shock when Sophia's finger decided it wanted to be squashed in the van door, we have had a good day and a lot of families and children have enjoyed receiving Christmas boxes, reminding us yet again that these small gifts do make a big difference for those who have next to nothing.

Tomorrow we head to the city of Stara Zagora to take several hundred boxes to our partner
organisation World Without Borders and a visit to the largest Roma community in Bulgaria...

Today's scores:

Rich 3, Trams 0.

Mimi 1, Coach drivers 0. Despite an appeal to the ref TT team get away with some nifty manouevres.

Van door 1, Sophia's finger 0.

Low flying bench 1, Sophia's shin 0. This has now become shameless attention seeking on Sophia's part, frankly.

Pictures of happy kids 20,299,271, Pics of TT team posing, some.

Boxes delivered 400+

Total washout avoided despite rain's best efforts.

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