Wagons rolling in September for Amanda and Linda on aid convoy to Bulgaria

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Continuing what’s become a tradition for Simpson Millar LLP, the law firm is yet again throwing its support behind an aid convoy which will leave for Eastern Europe on 8 September to deliver essential items to some of Bulgaria’s poorest.

Organised by the Communication Workers Union Humanitarian Aid (CWUHA), the September 2011 Mission to Bulgaria will haul wheelchairs, clothing, toiletries, medical equipment, incubators, mattresses, nappies, toys and other sorely-needed supplies to some of the region’s 20,000 orphaned children and disabled adults.

Travelling in vehicles loaned by BT, Royal Mail and Parcelforce, the CWUHA has to date delivered around 500,000 tonnes of aid worth over £1 million to some of Europe’s poorest countries.

CWUHA trustees have decided to return to Bulgaria and, in co-operation with its in-country partners, respond to the need for urgent help for hospitals, schools, orphanages and homes for children with mental and physical disabilities.

Amanda Davies during her 2009 Aid Convoy

"Staff in these homes work tirelessly to give the children in their care the love and attention they deserve," said Carl Webb from the CWUHA. "Hampered by severely limited resources, however, they face a real struggle and are in desperate need of help and supplies."

This year Simpson Millar is working once again with One Life Charity and Lora’s Foundation – the two organisations jointly tasked with ensuring the smooth running of the convoy as it nears its destination.

The law firm’s own contribution to Bulgaria 2011 is substantial. 42 year-old Amanda Davis, Simpson Millar’s Wimbledon Office Manager, has volunteered to join the convoy as a driver each year and has been chosen three times so far. Amanda will sit behind the wheel of one of the lorries as the convoy winds through some of Europe’s most deprived areas.

"We’ll be leaving Wimbledon to pick up the truck from Manchester on 8 September, then sailing from Hull the next day," Amanda said. "It is Linda’s first time but I am an experienced driver and we are both keen to play our part in making sure this year’s convoy is bulging with vital supplies."

The convoy aims to deliver to: two homes caring for nearly 200 children with physical and mental disabilities; two homes looking after over 100 3-7 year-olds, a children’s hospital; and two orphanages that care for nearly 200 kids and a care home for adults.

The latter is Amanda’s main destination: an institution which looks after 85 physically and mentally-disabled adults, most of whom are bedridden and used to spending their lives in orphanages.

For years these residents' pensions would routinely – and crookedly – disappear. However, three years ago the EU signed off funding for desperately needed renovation work, with new floors, windows, beds, furniture and paint sprucing up what the CWUHA once described as a "hell-hole".

On arrival, Amanda is well aware of the grinding deprivation she will experience. "I think it will be disturbing to see children and adults who don’t know any other existence. What’s so terribly sad is that they will end their lives there. If we can bring a little hope along with the charity, it will be as if we have done something very special and helped people who really need it."

Whilst those who survived the home in its worst state now enjoy comparatively happier lives, they still lack many basics. Most pressing on the list of necessities is wheelchairs – new and old. The homes have also issued a plea for Pampers for Adults, of which some 1,650 are used at the home every month.

"This is the most basic list we have ever seen," said Amanda. "We don’t so much need furniture – some decent new items came with the home’s refurbishment. What we really need is the kind of stuff we all normally take for granted like soap, shampoo, pillows, fleece blankets for elderly bedridden people, walking aids with wheels, even a few kiddies’ toys."

Simpson Millar’s managing partner Peter Watson will be keeping abreast of Amanda’s and Linda’s progress and is planning to fly in and help deliver the aid himself once the convoy arrives. "As always everyone at Simpson Millar wholeheartedly applauds the ethos and efforts of CWUHA in ensuring that assistance gets to the people who really it," he said. "I’m extraordinarily proud of everyone who has volunteered to help deliver aid since we first joined the convoy. Amanda deserves plenty of encouragement and support for throwing their hat in the ring this year."

All donations will be gratefully received at www.CWUHA.org.




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