Teessiders head to Belarus on mercy mission

by Mike Blackburn, Evening Gazette

TEESSIDE aid workers are setting off on their Christmas mercy mission to help families, orphans and the homeless in Belarus.

Chernobyl Children's Relief is taking 13-14 tonnes of goods donated by local churches and well-wishers including toiletries, blankets, bedding, clothes, shoes, toys, sleeping bags, tents and even two wheelchairs, one of them motorised.

The mission is being led as usual by aid workers Ted Strike, Dave Bagley and Richard Maygor, who for years have been helping impoverished families living in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The donated goods, which were loaded into a van this week from a container at Mids Garage, in Marske, will arrive in the Belarus capital Minsk in the early New Year, the time when they celebrate Christmas there.

Ted, of Ingleby Barwick, said the brand new tents, donated by Marske and Berwick Hills Baptist churches, would become permanent accommodation for homeless people currently living in "holes in the ground" in the woods in Belarus.

He has witnessed first hand the shocking life or death struggle these people face daily.

"One woman we met last time called Alena died in the woods," he said. "She froze to death. It was very, very sad. Another lady was stabbed over some plastic sheeting."

Ted said the motorised wheelchair, donated by a former Red Cross worker, was already earmarked for a disabled pensioner in one of the Belarussian churches they support. "She was in a bit of a mess, it will be ideal," he said.

But the Teesside aid workers are seeing improvements in the Eastern European country. Two orphanages they support have closed recently thanks to the success of a fostering programme.

As reported the charity has also helped fix up a three-storey house in Minsk, capable of homing 30 teenagers and staff. Seven local volunteers, including two joiners, an electrician and a plumber, paid for their own travel to Minsk and gave their time free of charge to help carry out the extensive work

Ted added: "We want to say thanks to all the churches and people who kindly donated goods this year and to Mids Garage for giving us the container for the last couple of years. We couldn't have done it without them."

Andrew Middleton, who runs the garage, said a wrangle with Redcar and Cleveland Council was putting future storage of his containers at risk. But he said if he was forced to remove them from his site he would still give a container to Chernobyl Children's Relief if they could find a new site for it.

Ted Strike is also planning to do the Boxing Day dip to raise funds for the charity. To sponsor him or help out in any way call 07957952454.


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