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Helping Silistra orphanage - update

Within a short distance of their home in Silistra, they heard from their Bulgarian friend Krassimir Dobrevo that there was a baby orphanage, a home for the elderly, a hospital, the Dr Tania Stoikova Orphanage and villagers in need.

So they decided to collect items for these as well.

A generous couple in Chatteris donated a mobility scooter to the cause, but as this would have been expensive to run in Bulgaria, it was sold, with their blessing, and three new wheelchairs bought for the Silistra Hospital with the proceeds.

Berni and Dougie also managed to get more wheelchairs, zimmer frames, walking sticks and one large box of spectacles for the home for the elderly, clothing and boots for villagers and baby clothes and toiletries for the baby orphanage.

This time, with twice as much as they had before, there was only one way of getting the goods to Bulgaria, so they bought some space in a 40ft articulated lorry, raising money from car boot sales, packing shopping at supermarkets and other charity events, including a fun day organised by Orton Line Dancers, which raised 200, to cover the cost.

Berni and Dougie began their latest month-long trip in September and although they have only just returned to their city home, they are already planning a fund-raising car boot sale.

"We didn't have a holiday at all, apart from one afternoon where we went out for a drive," said Berni, a call centre worker for Diligenta in Peterborough.

"Everyone wants us to be guests in their houses, and when we are at home, people come to us, the mayor comes and people just pop in."

At Dimcho Debelianov, a party was held in their honour, with the director inviting people from the newspapers, television and radio along.

"They are amazed that English people want to come to their country and give to children that they do not know. Charity is something they don't know of yet," said Berni.

This year, the couple also delivered 106 lovingly prepared shoeboxes, which the children will open at Christmas.

"All of the children had a box of their own, and they were all decorated," said Berni.

"So every child will have something to open on Christmas morning.

"It would have been lovely to have been there to see them open them," said Dougie.

The couple also delivered two 50-litre boxes full of sweets.

Having visited the baby orphanage and Silistra Hospital, the couple have decided that they have all they need, and now intend to focus their efforts on the Dimcho Debelianov Orphanage and the home for the elderly.

Despite their hectic schedule in Bulgaria, Berni and Dougie have vowed to return to the country for another trip in September or October next year.

Dougie, who has had to give up his job as a white van driver because of his heart problems and diabetes, doesn't see that as a reason to give up on this cause that still means so much to him and his wife.

The couple's next goal is to raise money for wood flooring and 15 internal doors at the orphanage.

"We are just trying to focus on getting sufficient funding to pay for the flooring and the doors," said Dougie.

"But they are still going to need stationery, clothes, trainers and shoes. The winters are very bad and the summers very hot, and things have got to last all year round."

They keep in touch with many of the children at the Dimcho Debelianov Orphanage on Skype, particularly one 18-year-old called Emo, who has taught himself to speak English, watching Bulgarian films with English subtitles, and often acts as a translator when they visit.

The couple also know that there is an orphanage for children with disabilities in Silistra, but no one will tell them where it is. But with the dogged determination that has already seen them achieve more than they could ever have imagined, Berni and Dougie are sure they will eventually track it down and extend their kindness to the children there.

They also dream of funding a Bulgarian English teacher, which would cost 3,000 a year.

"If the children can speak English, they stand a better chance of getting a job when they leave the orphanage," said Berni.

"They have nowhere to go when they leave, so another option is to look into that, but there is only so much we can do."

But knowing what they have achieved so far, you wouldn't bet against Berni and Dougie making these dreams a reality.

We caught up again with Berni and Dougie this month to find out what's been going on since October last year.

'Dougie and I are very busy collecting, shopping, sorting, washing, packing, labelling and storing of all the goods ie clothing, shoes, toys, baby products, toiletries, knitting wool, linen, blankets, games and recreations activities for the following organisations The Dimcho Debelianov, the Baby Orphanages the Home for the Elderly and we will also be taking goods for the Refuge Centre. This year 2010 we are just overwhelmed with the donations that, our on-going supporters below donated. They are fantastic! Thanks a million times over.

Tee Kay Packaging (supply all our boxes) Gap Clothing, Next Clothing, Tesco, Rainbow and a group of local people who are members of Freegle here in Peterborough. Everybody has been fantastic!

We intend to take our 3rd lorry load of goods over in September plus 100’s of filled shoeboxes for Christmas. We cannot provide them for all organisations, but we will have one or two huge boxes filled with good quality toys for each one. This way, we can be sure the children have a Christmas toy each.

We took 106 filled shoeboxes to the Dimcho last year and it was a total success, so we will be doing the same. Again, we will fill them ourselves as well as with help from the Brownies, Guides and Cubs and Katie, a young girl from Bradford, who filled about 12 boxes. My very good friend Maz will also be helping us.  

We have to get the goods to Bulgaria. Therefore, we have to raise the transport costs first so we will continue to do fund raising through supermarket bag packing, book sales, boot sales, knitting items to sell such as Easter chicks, etc. We have a few fantastic helpers like Elly, Cheryl, Joanne, Margaret and many more who collect goods and turn up for the fund raising events.

Whatever we have left over from the transport costs will go towards any renovations needed at the Orphanage (air conditioning, furniture, paint...).

We also intend to have a Garden Party Saturday 25th Sept from 1pm for which we  would love to find a well know band or group who would donate their talents to us to raise funds.

We will need to do a BBQ again-  if you can help with food and soft drinks Entertainment, face painting, games, stalls and so on, that would be brilliant, please let us know.

Our intentions are to get the local people helping out the various other organisations. If they ask in their offices, businesses, banks, schools, colleges, if they can put a box in their establishment, then staff or clients can help fill this box with items such as toiletries, small toys, hats, scarfs, gloves. If every person brought one or two items, the box would soon be filled and then that box of goods can be donated to the nearest Orphanage, refuge or home for the elderly. We will get the ‘Berni & Dougie Box’ set up in Silistra. It does not matter which area you are in - you can do the same there. If you do manage to get a box set up we would love to hear how you got on and of course we can add you as a supporter on our website It is such a simple task and it helps everyone in the long run.'

More information about the Orphanage at Silistra and Berni and Dougie.