Ipswich/Moldova: Thousands of miles to help poor schoolchildren
Charity volunteers trip to Moldova
Children; imagine going to a school where there is no hot and cold running water, a school so poor that going to the toilet is in a bare building - just with holes in the ground.
It sounds like something from the Dark Ages, but there are still people living like that in parts of Europe.
This is real poverty.
Surely clean water for drinking and hot water for washing are essentials?
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And one small, Ipswich-based charity, which pulls together volunteers and tradespeople, is making a difference.
TEECH- Telecoms Eastern European Challenge recently returned from a major project in Moldova.
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It took four days travelling each way, by coach and lorry, and then eight days working on the project in the village school at Balanesti, Moldova.
Holly Field, one of the organisers, said many of the volunteers had given up their holidays to take part.
She said: “TEECH volunteers are all unpaid and raise funds to go on a trip. We are always looking for tradespeople to join the team and volunteers who are not scared of a bit of hard work, like working in a team and would like to experience a country and culture which is very special.
“The Moldovan hospitality is amazing, so you get to meet the locals, deliver aid (clothing, toys) and try the local beverages and food.”
There was eight days of traveling involved for the 30-strong party, through seven countries.
The team travelled with a coach, two lorries and one van, not only to get the volunteers to Moldova but also the aid and the supplies required for the project.
The school had no indoor toilets, let alone flushing ones.
So the team created a bathroom for the boys and one for the girls, including toilets, showers, hot and cold running water, urinals and sinks.
The school did the preparation work prior to their arrival, also funded by TEECH, by knocking down walls, screeding a floor and replacing windows.
Then the visitors put up stud work walls, plasterboard, installed all the sanitary ware, painted and decorated not only the new bathrooms but other areas of the school.
“We also installed a septic tank outside for all the waste water. We took a second tank for the kindergarten in the same village and installed that also. We were joined for a day by the British Ambassador to Moldova, Phil Batson and his Embassy team, who helped with painting, plumbing and finalising the septic tank at the kindergarten.”
For this project the volunteers travelled 3,000 mils through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Hungary and then into Moldova.
The team include a plumber, carpenter and electrician leading the work and passing skills on to other volunteers.
Holly added: “The volunteers included people from all walks of life and aged from 18 to 68.
“We always need more tradespeople. If they are self employed they lose their income when they are with us, and have to pay for the trip.
“It is no holiday, but a lot of people take holidays to come along.
“It is full on work when we are there, from when we get up. There are no passengers. There is plenty for everyone to do.
“There are people from BT, who are usually pretty practical, and BT help with the coaches.”
Charity secretary Holly has been on the summer trips four times.
“We are always collecting things to take us. This time we took toilet partitions from SCC that had come out of a school in Lowestoft.”
TEECH (Telecoms Eastern European Challenge) ( www.teech.org) is a local charity which grew from an iniative by BT staff.
TEECH was established in 1998 when a group of people who worked together at BT near Ipswich took up the challenge from a colleague to help repair two hospitals in Bucharest.
About fifty volunteers travelled to Bucharest under the banner of ‘BTL Aid to Romania’ in August that year and set about painting, plastering, providing lighting and generally making the hospitals cleaner, safer and brighter places. After the success of this trip, and seeing the need to be more structured the volunteers organised themselves into a Registered Charity and hence TEECH (Telecoms Eastern European Challenge) was born retaining the “telecom” connection in its name.
Although BT continue to provide assistance with transport TEECH is an independent organisation, which welcomes volunteers from all walks life who are not afraid of hard work.
At the end of December the charity travel again to Moldova with a consignment of shoe boxes filled with gifts for families and children for Christmas.