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2024 Newsletter Update and latest news/Director's Report 2023

Updated: 6 days ago

BHA News 24-4-24
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Photos from Aratta, Ukraine. January 2023

Photos from Aratta, Chernihiv, Ukraine - December 2023


British Humanitarian Aid Annual Director's Report 2022/2023


On 22nd. May 2023, out of the blue, our founder director, Reverend Tony Budell, collapsed and died from a ruptured aortic aneurysm during a routine trip collecting aid from friends in Switzerland. Over the years, Tony’s efforts organising the collecting and delivering of aid to Romania, The Balkans and, latterly to Chernihiv Region, Ukraine have made a dramatic difference to the lives of the many organisations and individuals who have received support. He will be sadly missed. Following an earlier collection from Switzerland in the Spring, he had driven into Ukraine and delivered 1.7 tonnes of aid and sanitary items to the Aratta team, who met him in Lviv.  A service to celebrate Tony’s life was held at Barham Crematorium on 26th. June 2023. It is our intention continue his work for the immediate future, but we will have to see how things works out.


In comparison to the devastation in the East of Ukraine, the city of Chernihiv, and Chernihiv Region, suffered only slight physical damage from the initial incursion of Putin’s “special military action”.  Since the Russians’ withdrawal there have been massive efforts to get the infrastructure stabilised and repaired. Internal transport routes are now mostly restored with many of the bridges destroyed during the invasion now replaced, or well on the way to being replaced. However, shelling from within Russia and Belarus continues. The district towns of Semenivka and Novgorod Siversky, only 10km from the northern border are badly affected. Many of their population, especially those with children, have moved from these districts to Chernihiv or further West. Throughout the region sirens, warning of aerial activity, frequently interrupt normal life. Shops and restaurants close and children form schools and kindergartens rush down to nearby cellars.


Chernihiv used to receive many of its supplies from Belarus and Russia. Now these are obviously closed and carefully monitored. This has put huge pressure on the distribution systems. In Ukraine itself, much trade used to be via routes to the North, East and South of the country. With only the Western border crossings open the delays are huge (around 100 hrs) and currently made worse by the Polish lorry drivers protesting about what they see as unfair competition from Ukrainian drivers. Getting even basic supplies is difficult and prices have increased hugely.


With so little support from the authorities, communities really the services provided by other charitable organisations. BHA and Aratta are still providing support despite Covid never being got under control as in the UK, and transport for all is difficult. Several years ago, we were introduced to a new charity in the city, Parent’s Voice which provided day care for children and young adults with disabilities or learning difficulties. They were able to get a permanent home in a disused “utilities” building. We have provided help with external security, complete rewiring including surveillance and wi-fi, widening of doors for wheelchair access and the installation of a new toilet and wet room. Wallpaper and paint that we have sent has helped with the renovation and most of the building, including the sensory room, has now been renovated. The charity has continued to operate despite difficulties and many of the parents are now active creating support for the Defence Forces. Much machining and knitting has resulted in quantities of warm clothing, and they have also been making the most amazing camouflage nets!


The Aratta Organisation in Chernihiv, through whom all our aid is distributed, continues to be ably led by Victoria Filatova, now both a pensioner (a paltry £60 per month) and a grandmother. Fortunately, she has the support of her daughter and many friends. This determined team is in good spirits. Being together on a regular basis and providing much needed support for others has helped them through this stressful time. There has been regular distribution of aid to people direct from their centre, but so great has been the demand that they have been forced to institute a booking system. On one occasion, they had to seek support from the police as, by opening time, there were over 200 people assembled outside, all desperate for help. Aratta regularly assists between 80 and 100 people a day. An emphasis has been put on supporting the elderly and displaced though anyone in need is helped where possible. In addition, they have continued to provide aid to, or via, other organisations throughout the city and the Region.


There are still no commercial flights into Ukraine, so my visit to Chernihiv in July, BHA’s first since Covid and the war, entailed flying to Warsaw, followed by a 17hr coach journey to Kiev. During the visit we distributed aid from a recent lorry to several organisations in the Region who were without their own transport. We also re-established contact with the inspirational children’s home/school “Sokolyatko” in the village of Budishche near Korop. Despite initial problems with the authorities, they have now purchased the old village school buildings together with some adjacent houses and land. Created by Pastor Sokol, it is now run by dedicated members of his hard-working family. It provides a caring home for orphans and children in care. A few single mothers, who needed support, also live there with their children. It is a lively community and wonderful place to visit. The children are so open and full of happiness and life. Education, in its fullest sense, starts there with the youngest while the older children attend school in the local district town. They have a small-holding and keep chickens, pigs and a couple of cows. In fact, a calf was born while we were there.

At the start of the year, we rather expected that, after last year’s prolific response, we would suffer from donor fatigue. However, we were wrong. Fortunately, Ukraine’s problems were kept well featured in the daily news, though the recent crisis in Gaza has now come to the fore. “Out of date” PPE and medical items are more than acceptable in Ukraine and Crisis and the Red Cross have passed donors who were searching for a use for their goods on to us. The hospitals and the army have been grateful recipients. It is amazing how “the word” gets round and we have acquired one new village, a new organisation, and several new individual donors who are interested in organising collections. In fact, we have done surprisingly well and 8 lorries with 77.4 tonnes of aid have been delivered. This weight appears slightly down on previous years, but we are using lighter boxes and there has been a vast quantity of light but bulky bedding. We currently have around 16 tonnes of aid left in the warehouse, awaiting the next lorry in the new year.


Of course, our work is entirely dependent on what material and financial donations we receive. None of this would have happened without our loyal individual supporters, plus the many churches, communities, businesses, and organisations who have also made generous contributions. A special mention must go to Penny Kirk and the Hurst Green and Oxted communities who have now totalled 31 full van loads since the start of the war, also to Edie and her mum from Ewhurst, who have organised schoolmates and friends to assemble personalised gift bags for all the children at the Sokolyatko home. We, and all our colleagues at Aratta, are most grateful for all the support. At present all loads are delivered directly to Aratta and distribution can start immediately. This is a bonus, thought there is still a lot of paperwork involved with the distribution.                                                                                                          

Philip Edmonds 04.12.2023


Newsletter August 2023

IN MEMORIAM

The sudden death of The Reverend Tony Budell, on the 22nd of May, while travelling to see friends and collect aid from Switzerland, has come as a huge shock to all who knew him.

From his early days visiting Mother Teresa and orphans in Romania, the multiple monthly convoys during the Balkan Crisis, the last 25 years working in Ukraine, his writings as Brother Anthony, and his love for travelling and meeting people, he has continuously provided both spiritual and material support for many and will be sadly missed. A service to celebrate his life was held at Barham Crematorium on 26th June.


AID COLLECTIONS

We had been concerned that after the fantastic response received last year things would start to tail off. However, to our surprise, this has not been the case and, via all our supporting, churches, schools, businesses, community collectors and many individuals, we are continuing to collect donations. Since the Russian Troops withdrawal, last April, the Region has focussed on repairing its infrastructure, especially the transport routes that included the many bridges destroyed to slow the Russian advance on Kiev.

This has enabled us to reconnect with our friends in Chernihiv Region in the North of Ukraine, and so far this year, six lorries have been sent without any problems. We are grateful to Whittle’s Eastern European Logistics for sourcing and monitoring the lorries. These are crammed with as much as we can get into them. Fortunately, we get assistance with a forklift from the Noel Tatt Group. In Chernihiv they do not have this luxury and every item must be removed by the hands of a team assembled specially for the unloading.

We have always known our aid was needed. Just how much, became obvious, from the extremely emotional welcome, that we received during recent visits in Chernihiv Region. Your continuing support via BHA is greatly valued.


CHERNIHIV ARATTA

All our work in the Region is done through the Chernihiv charity ARATTA, which is closely monitored by the local authorities. Led by Victoria Filatova, a core team who had remained in Ukraine, have now been joined by other volunteers to process and distribute the aid.


ARATTA TEAM

This team is remarkable. Despite having to exist in cellars for nearly a month, with only brief trips to their flats for a shower and to cook some food, they continued to do what they could for their community. Some have been working with Aratta for 26 years.

With little social support, very limited opportunities for work and dramatically inflated prices of what goods are available, everyday life is a real struggle for much of the population.

Two of Chernihiv’s suburbs were seriously damaged when Defence forces resisted the Russians’ unsuccessful attempt to capture the city at the beginning of the war.

Many lost their homes and all belongings. These, together with refugees from the fighting in the East who arrive with almost nothing, need massive support that is almost entirely available only from Charities. Aratta has been helping between 80 and 100 people a day.


RETURN TO CHERNIHIV

Our first visit, since the war began, was at the beginning of July. Following an uncomfortable journey, plane to Warsaw and then coach to Kiev, one’s first impressions were “War? What war?” Between the air raids the population is getting on with its life. Transfer by a friend’s car to the Chernihiv minibus was uneventful as was the rest of the journey. The only signs of “martial law” being an increased number of military security checks along the route. There were also warning signs for “mines”.

The sirens went off several times during the stay because ordanance from Russia and Belarus passes over en-route to Kiev. Public transport stops, shops and restaurants close, and kindergartens and schools return to cellars!


AID DISTRIBUTION

Only a few district organisations can visit Aratta to collect aid for further distribution, so it was good that we were able to visit several. We took aid to Red Cross teams in Nizhin and Korop, to the social services at Koriokovka and Parafivka, also the Aratta Branch at Makosheno.

In Chernihiv, we visited to one of our supported charities, “Parent’s Voice”. In addition to providing day care for severely handicapped youngsters they are busy actively supporting their armed forces. They are inspirational.

We also visited a handicapped family in Mena and a home/school for single mothers with children, and orphans, in the village of Budyshche. A final visit with much needed bedding, and a hot meal, was to a team of “Defenders” based in northern village.

Whether material or financial, your support for the population via BHA and Aratta is greatly valued. Just how much, became obvious from the emotional welcomes that we received during the visits. With your support we plan continue, at least for the immediate future.


August 2023




September 2023

Photos from 'Aratta' Centre




Tuesday 17th October 2023

A lorry of humanitarian aid left the warehouse for the centre 'Aratta' in Chernihiv, Ukraine.




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