Shoebox Appeal History/ Background
Senior Citizens' Christmas Party
Donations in 2008
SHOEBOX APPEAL 2012 - URGENT
Contact Information for Biggin Hill & Westerham Lions Club
Links for Biggin Hill & Westerham Lions Club
The Plight of Belarus
Belarus has sometimes been described as "a forgotten land". Lions in South East England have remembered the desperate plight of the people there, and the devastation of the Chernobyl disaster, from which they have suffered since 1986, and from which they will continue to suffer for many years to come. When the Chernobyl disaster happened massive doses of radiation affected vast areas of Belarus. A huge cloud of radioactive particles went up from the reactor and drifted north across Belarus towards Moscow. It was a bright, sunny May public holiday, and suddenly it began to rain death! It will take anything up to 100 years for radiation levels to get back to normal in some areas, and in the meantime, the people of Gomel grow their food on contaminated land, and catch their fish from contaminated rivers. The parents may escape severe health problems, but their children sufter all sorts of related ailments, and have a life expectancy a mere fraction of that of healthy children.
The Lions of SE England first became involved in 1999, through our twin Lions District in Germany. Rolf, a medical doctor, has for over ten years organised and run an annual camp in Frankenberg, Germany, for up to 50 Chernobyl Children from Gomel. On one of his visits to Gomel, Rolf was shown a home for handicapped children where help was sorely needed. At that time, the only toilets they had were two holes in the ground in an outhouse 50 yards from the main house. Imagine that, in the depths of a Belarus winter. We drew up proposals for a joint project, and our two Districts raised enough money not only to put in good, modern toilet facilities on two floors of the main house, but also to replace completely the worn out, dysfunctional central heating system. By September 2000 the toilets had been completed, and work had started on the heating system. It is expected that all the work will be finished shortly.
Lion Howard Lee who visited Gomel said "we found the people of Gomel generally very happy, friendly and hospitable. The fact that they have so little, but they gave us so much, made their hospitality all the more touching."
The vast majority of people in Gomel live in small one or twobedroom high-rise apartments. The main problem is that the rent charged for an apartment is so high, compared with the average wage, that you find two or three generations of the same family having to share one apartment to make ends meet. The children are given two meals a day at school, but in the long summer holidays, they have to be fed at home, which often places a great strain on the household budget. Therefore, some help in the early summer would ease those problems considerably.
Shoebox Appeal 2002 Report.
The following report of the 2002 appeal has been recieved from Lion Howard Lee who went to Belarus to ensure safe arrival of the boxes.
"The annual District 105SE Shoebox Appeal was, once again, a huge success. During June and July, many clubs throughout the District collected parcels and bulk goods in accordance with the request sheets sent out, and delivered them to the warehouse in Crawley. There they were sorted, re-packed as necessary, and labeled by an intrepid and hard-working band of volunteers, under the leadership of Tony and Sandy Redhead (Lancing), and Tony and Val Parris (Burgess Hill). In all there were over 5,000 parcels, and many pallets of bulk goods, filling a large lorry, and equally large trailer. On Saturday 20 July, the goods were loaded onto the transport contractor’s lorry, and set out for Belarus.
One of the attractions of making Gomel, Belarus our target this year was that we could go there, see the goods arrive, visit the people who would distribute them, and learn more about the recipients. So on Wednesday 24 July, “the two Tonys” and I flew to Frankfurt to meet up with Lion PDG Rolf Bluttner, our go-between with our contacts in Gomel. The next day we flew on to Belarus. We stayed for four days as the guests of the Tsentralit iron foundry, the director and staff of which are our local sponsors in this project, and they looked after us magnificently (more of that in future articles).
Unfortunately, the paperwork prepared by the transport contractor was not complete, which led to a hold-up. Therefore, whilst we were able to inspect the goods on arrival, and explain to our contacts what they were, and where they should be delivered, we were not able to make deliveries personally. However, we have since heard that all goods have been delivered in accordance with our specifications. We have been promised a photographic report, and thank-you letters, in due course.
Whilst in Gomel, we visited many people, schools, surgeries, etc. and have many ideas for future help to the area. In particular, we visited the school for disabled children, now re-named Lions School, where we provided inside toilets and a new central heating system over the last two years. This work has been completed magnificently, and we are waiting to hear from the principal what is needed next. Also, we have visited the Belarus Embassy in London, and they have assured us of their help in dealing with the inevitable Belarusian bureaucracy in future.
There is much work we can do to assist the poor people of Belarus, still tragically affected by the Chernobyl disaster. We will report further in due course."
PDG Howard Lee – Chairman, Service & International Committee.
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