That's that then...

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

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Flag of Bulgaria  , Sofiya,
Thursday, December 17, 2009

Today was perhaps the day most of the team were looking forward to with the greatest anticipation. Lipnitsa residential school has been supported by the Trust for over 12 years now and it is always special to visit the school and the children who live and learn there.

As ever we started the day in a tussle with Sofia's seething traffic as we made our way to collect all the Christmas boxes from the warehouse. Fully loaded once again we made our way to the village of Novachene where we delivered some boxes to the kindergarten before making our way up the icy road to Lipnitsa, high up in the mountains. The village looked fantastic covered in snow and as we drove into the school yard the children came rushing out to greet us. It was really good to see Gregor, Radi, Krassi, Danni, Toshko, Netka and all the others that we had spent time with during summer camp. They were really pleased to see us as were the staff and especially the school director, our friend Mr Petkov. The school in Lipnitsa is an unofficial orphanage; until recently Botevgrad municipality provided funds for the school to provide food and accommodation for some of the very poorest and most vulnerable kids in the area. Sadly the local authorities have decided to discontinue this vital support so now Mr Petkov has to find alternative sources of funding in order to keep the children warm, protected, fed and in education. The Trussell Trust has been supporting the school but we have yet to find a long term solution to the problem. Just this week we have been able to confirm the 2009 winter camp as being able to take place. This is fantastic news and means that 22 highly vulnerable kids will be kept warm and well fed over the Christmas holiday. We want to say a huge thank you to all those who have donated to this camp in the last few weeks- you will make a huge difference for these kids this winter.

The children performed a show for us containing traditional Bulgarian songs and dancing before it was time for us to give out the Christmas shoeboxes. This is such a special time for the kids and we consider ourselves privileged to be able to distribute the presents here to our friends. The staff, who in common with all state paid workers in institutions like these are very low paid, all received boxes for themselves and their families too. After spending more time with the kids and having some lunch it was time for us to leave. This is always a very protracted process as various children surround us to give us hugs and try to prevent the van from leaving. Eventually we managed to extract ourselves from the mini mob and waved our goodbyes for another year.

The afternoon was finished at the House of Joshua with the young residents and staff. We gave out presents to Tsetsi, Iva, Danni and Marten as well as Taniya, the house parent. The young people were especially thrilled to receive some computer games systems donated by a generous supporter. We had an enjoyable time together and it is around this time of the year when you can really see how the HoJ provides a family atmosphere that is so helpful for the residents there. These young people have grown up in orphanages so for them times like this afternoon are a taste of waht families are all about. We hope that as they achieve independence through the HoJ programme they will remember what they have experienced and be able to pass it on to their own kids who will have a much better start to life than their parents endured.

All too soon we had to leave and make our way back to Sofia and the warehouse for a final clear up. We have distributed 3,400 boxes over the last 10 days, leaving less than 500 in the warehouse. Tedy and Mimi will see that the remaining boxes are distributed to other children and families in need over the next couple of weeks but for the UK team the job is done and it is a time of quiet reflection in the near empty space that just last week was packed full of cases containing all those lovingly prepared gifts. Or time for some more daft photo’s.

This is our last blog entry for this years’ Christmas Box appeal distribution trip. We hope that we have been able to give you flavour of what has taken place here in the last couple of weeks. The whole team want to express our thanks for your support, prayers and interest for this project. The appeal started way back in May and the distribution trip is the culmination of a lot of effort by a lot of people: schools, churches, businesses, community groups, families and individuals have all contributed their time, money or effort to preparing presents for this trip. You are all stars.

We have seen so many smiles from those who received boxes and been thanked by so many others and it is humbling to think about how grateful the recipients of these boxes are and then compare this to our reactions to receiving, say, a pair of socks at Christmas!

I want to say thank you to Tedy, Mimi and Valya; we could not have done this without you all and you are a real joy to work with. Thanks also to Lizzie who is always calm and collected and ready with a smile to brighten the day and a special thanks to Sophia who has endured the last few months working with me: you have been a great help and I am so glad to have had your support.

Thanks again everybody. See you next year!

Rich Parsons

Bulgaria Operations Manager

The Trussell Trust
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