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Lions District 105SE Shoebox Appeal.
The shoebox appeal is a District Project established to bring Humanitarian Aid to families and individuals in areas of the World where we can be effective in making a difference to the lives of people in need. For many years now it has served and operated in the South East corner of Belarus (The Gomel Region). This Region borders Ukraine to the South and Russia to the East.
The Regional Capital is the City of Gomel which is second in size only to the Capital of Belarus, Minsk. In former times it was a prosperous city being home to a major division of the Soviet Armed Forces. Many local industries relied on trade with the military including numerous iron foundries and engineering works. All of this came to an end when the USSR was dissolved.
Then unfortunately in 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded. This Power Station was in Ukraine but it is actually on the Ukraine/Belarus Border and is only 100km from the city of Gomel. Large areas of Gomel Region were contaminated with Radio active dust and will remain so for 100’s of years.
The Chernobyl explosion rendered agricultural land unusable for crops or inhabitation, displacing thousands of people from their land and their villages. Many of these were brought into the city and into high rise concrete apartment blocks, for them a totally alien existence by comparison with their almost nomadic life on the land, where they were self-sufficient in their communities.
Almost three decades on they are still trying to come to terms with their circumstances and learning to live with the contamination but they have a long way to go before they can be considered prosperous again. Engineering has turned to farm machinery manufacture and some of the contaminated ground has been turned over to Biofuel production.
The average wage is still only about $200 per month and less for many manual workers. The cost of fuel and many other commodities is the same as it is in Western Europe. For the families we support, to own a bicycle, would be a luxury, a major expense bought by payment in instalments.
Our Annual Shoebox Appeal brings aid and support to the lives of some very worthy recipients.
Each year the load is between 10,000 and 12,000 kg and can consist of almost anything - Soft Toys to Sewing machines, Beds to Bicycles, Electronic Organs to Eiderdowns, Soap to Shoes, Computers and Laptops, all clothes for all sizes, cots, prams, pushchairs, small furniture, school equipment, the list is almost endless. No medical equipment or medicines, no English language literature or videos.
The Lions Clubs of South East England donate funds to cover the cost of storage, transport and packing and we also rely on them to source all the goods and deliver them to a central warehouse for sorting and packing. Lions Club members throughout Kent, Surrey, Sussex and South London converge on the Warehouse in August to both deliver and sort. The extensive paperwork required is processed in the first two weeks of September and a 44 ft long by 10 ft high articulated trailer is loaded from end to end with the goods for the journey to Gomel. Subject to possible border problems between Poland and Belarus it is anticipated to take a week until it is unloaded in a similar warehouse in Gomel.
In 2007 we formed a new Lions Club in Gomel and since then the members of that club have organised the unloading and distribution of the goods to the families and organisations which are to benefit from the humanitarian aid.
For the past five years the Gomel Lions Club Members have also nominated the names and addresses of the needy people which in 2013 numbered a total of over 350 addresses ranging from single people living alone through needy families, childrens homes, orphanages, boarding schools and other schools in need in villages and outlying settlements. We have utmost confidence in the ability of these Lions Club Members working voluntarily as all members do, to ensure our goods bring relief and enjoyment to the most needy people.
Shoebox appeal will continue in 2015 and Lions Clubs are already collecting and donating to the costs. The estimated secondhand value of the goods shipped each year is estimated to be between £15,000 to £20,000 all donated by the generosity of our friends.