THE BLOG
02/10/2013 07:47 BST | Updated 30/11/2013 05:12 GMT

My Fifth Aid Trip to Bulgarian Orphanages

I have just returned from Bulgaria, where for the fifth time I joined the annual Communication Workers Union Humanitarian Aid convoy which delivers much needed supplies to schools, orphanages, hospitals and other institutions for our newly admitted neighbours at the south-eastern corner of the European Union.

When charities work to support desperately poor children in far flung places, images of their faces often help tell the story when words aren't enough.

I have just returned from Bulgaria, where for the fifth time I joined the annual Communication Workers Union Humanitarian Aid convoy which delivers much needed supplies to schools, orphanages, hospitals and other institutions for our newly admitted neighbours at the south-eastern corner of the European Union.

I can't provide you with any pictures because the organisers of the convoy and our liaison support in Bulgaria advise against identifying individuals at the institutions we visit. When I subsequently returned with only a few snaps of some decaying post-communist architecture or myself helping to unload the contents of 10 seven and a half ton trucks laden with clothes, furniture and white goods, I struggled to explain this drab pictorial account to my family. But what I hope is that one day they will see and experience similar things themselves because the opportunities are available for all of us.

My firm Simpson Millar has supported the CWUHA Aid convoy since it began in 1995 and through good times and bad, the relationship has flourished. Every year, a group of employees at our firm joins a convoy of trucks which travels across Europe to eastern capitals such as Sofia, Chisinau and Vilnius, from where it fans out into remote regions to deliver aid for children.

From our head office in Leeds and around the UK we spend each year raising money through the most typical of means; £2 weekly fees for the privilege on dress-down Friday; sponsored fun runs, the usual. But fund raising is only a part of the process. During our 18 year relationship with the CWUHA, Simpson Millar has been charged with the annual task of filling one of the aforementioned trucks based upon very specific requirements agreed between the charity and their local liaisons in Europe; usually around April of each year.

And so every spring, armed with a wish list of goods, Simpson Millar staff begin the process of negotiating with local partners, businesses, shops, suppliers and so on, to fulfil our 'order' and fill the truck in readiness for September when the convoy sets off on its 3400 mile round trip.

During those eighteen years we have of course forged lasting relationships with local partners here in Yorkshire and around the country and can always count on a number of regular suppliers who support the CWUHA convoy process with discounted goods and donations.

Now I am in no way discounting the efforts of conventional fund raisers and this country's commitment to generating money for good causes is laudable. But all too often, we hear of the complexities in getting aid to the point of greatest need, avoiding corruption or the various siphons which diminish its value along the way. As a result, what I am most proud of from the long term support we give to the CWUHA is the opportunity it provides for dozens of staff at our company to involve themselves in the delivery of aid directly to those who need it most.

For example, as we were delivering the Simpson Millar aid to Petrova just outside Stara Zagora, I spotted in the garden of one institution a trampoline similar to that which you see in British gardens so often these days; about 15 feet in diameter and with a huge net surrounding it. I recalled that we had delivered it to them back in 2011; similarly the desks in their classrooms and the stationary they use for schoolwork, beds, toys and furniture too. As we travelled from one institution to another, often we were rewarded with images like these which are now etched in the memory.

At the risk of sounding like some sort of evangelist, I urge anyone to combine this sort of charity and volunteer work because it costs only time and the physical effort of being a delivery truck driver for a week or so.

Hundreds of Simpson Millar employees have participated in the CWUHA convoy over the past 18 years and each one returns enthused and armed with endless stories about how their efforts have made a difference on the ground. There's no shortage of opportunities for businesses to take on projects and they do not need to involve the distances or depth of organisation we undertake each year. Local community projects are on your doorstep so my advice is to take up the challenge and see what you can deliver.