It is always quite breathtaking when a forty foot lorry that has driven all the way across Europe, reverses up to the building in readiness to receive the donations that have been lovingly collected, sorted, packed and prepared to be sent to the socially and economically vulnerable communities and individuals that we support in Belarus. As the gears move into reverse and this huge beast of a machine lurches backwards towards you – you cannot fail to be amazed and humbled at the sheer magnificence of it all. As it gets closer and closer, the reality of its sheer size becomes even more of a daunting reality making you feel quite humbled and insignificant in its shadow. The driver disembarks, friendly greetings are exchanged and the enormous rear doors of the lorry swing open to reveal the cavernous void within. Will we fill this absolutely vast space? Have we collected enough? There is only one way to find out at that is to load – and so it begins.
There is a hive of activity as we swing into action. An experienced task force team headed by Neil Clowes of Apt and Able are with us for the day to do the heavy work and load the donations in the way that only they know how. Like a game of tetris, everything has to be loaded in a particular way so that there are no empty spaces and items are tightly loaded to avoid movement and damage in transit. It’s quite an art. Meanwhile, our volunteers play the role of support team, some loading, some counting and recording the donations so that paperwork can be created and others, packing and sorting in the ‘Chat and Pack’ room. The pull together is communal, warm and friendly with oodles of camaraderie and a real feeling of excitement.
Throughout the day, we watch the lorry fill with furniture, clothes, household goods. shoes, toys, baby equipment and arts and crafts materials. The work is hard, tiring and relentless, but we do not stop – well only for the odd cup of tea and a biscuit! The piles of packed donations in the storage rooms slowly diminish as the belly of the lorry becomes fuller and fuller.
The sweat drips and brows are mopped as heavy items are mannually lifted onto the back of the lorry, but the camaraderie is high, the banter is flowing and there is an immense sense of teamwork. With almost no space left the last bags and boxes are squeezed on board and the doors finally closed. Twelve tonnes of aid loaded! Job done.
The next step is a two hour stint to prepare all of the paperwork and send the lorry on its way. By now the sun has set, and in the dark, the driver checks off the documents, says his farewells, climbs up into his enourmous cab, shifts his gears into drive and moves off. 1384 miles to go! We anticipated that sending our first lorry in a post-Brexit world would be bumpy and lo and behold there were some new document hurdles that we had to overcome, but overcome them we did. The driver and lorry, complete with our precious load of aid rumbled its way across Europe and finally made it to Belarus a week later.
Arriving on a wet and grey morning, the magnificent beast reversed up to our warehouse in Minsk where it was received by an equally dedicated volunter team there headed by our wonderful Country Director Artur Livshyts. As we had loaded with our endless enthusuasm so they unloaded with enormous dedication and team spirit, passing bags and boxes along the line securing safe passage from lorry to building. Again, it took a day to unload and move all of the donations to the storage room – heavy and dirty work, but so worth the effort. So many people, communities and community centres will benefit from these efforts and indeed these are all items that are finding new life, saving them from going into landfill. Good for the people and for the planet.
We would like to thank our donors and our community of volunteers for making this all possible and for helping to better the lives of people in need, showing how so much support is possible across borders when you pull together.
To find out more about Aid Together, to donate or to find out how to become a volunteer please email [email protected].
We are currently looking for some ad hoc volunteers to with the more physical jobs for a few hours a week in Watford.
Please get in touch if you can help.