26 December 1997

Bulgaria fund helps meet an urgent need

STARK poverty for the masses and a luxury hotel for the few.

Bitter winters and 300,000 people die from cold in just one of them. Hospitals without drugs and with windows missing.

People who have little and – with raging inflation – can expect to have less, who put out their best fare when visitors call. No one touches it.

A butcher carrying out his trade on the kerbside. A little boy treasuring a bar of soap. And acres and acres of derelict farmland.

These are among the impressions of Bulgaria brought back by Roger Hosking and friends from the relief trip they made to that Eastern European country in October.

With fellow members of Willington Baptist Church – Geoff McEvansoneya, Francis Blackmore and John Jones – Roger had taken medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, food, toiletries and warm clothing to help fulfil a need identified by a Geoff and John on an earlier visit.

Farmlife met Roger in September when he and his wife Beryl were preparing for an open day at their free range poultry farm in Etwall, Derbyshire. Besides educating the public about the source of its food, Roger and Beryl were hoping to influence the farming community by showing how free range poultry keeping can be made to work.

At the same time they wanted to encourage farm families to considering fostering young people and/or creating job opportunities for special needs youngsters on their farms.

&#42 Relief trip donations

The event proved an all round success and while no charges were made visitors donations and the publicity that surrounded the open day produced about £1000 towards the cost of the Bulgarian relief trip.

The trip was not without its difficulties and frustrations. Most of the latter were caused by Bulgarian bureaucracy, a factor which, Roger says, appears to work against all efforts to overcome the Bulgarian peoples suffering.

"They have no future unless they can have some help to get started," says Roger. "Clothes and food are needed but help to begin to reclaim the agricultural industry will be on-going and transform a whole community.

"When communism collapsed there was nothing, only a vacuum, so all the land became a wilderness yet the people were starving," says Roger who, as a farmer, longed to help the people reclaim the wasted acres.

Then he met a pastor who was also a farmer and found a way to help. Pastor Sancho has 5ha (13 acres) which he works with his hands and could have a further 12ha (30 acres) if he could farm it. There are others in the pastors congregation who also have access to land they are unable to farm. Roger promised to help them all by providing them with a tractor, plough, cultivator, seed drill and trailer.

He calculates that this will cost the equivalent of £13,000. Buying locally will also help the economy of the area and mean that spares should be readily available.

He has pledged this sum and is now working to raise the money. He is also investigating ways of setting up a co-operative in the area and offering more substantial assistance. He would be glad to hear from anyone able to help in any way. Contributions to the Bulgaria Fund can be sent c/o Roger Hosking, Highfield Farm, The Paddocks, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derby DE65 6LS (01283-732083).

Roger Hosking (left)

and Pastor Sancho. A tractor and tackle will enable him and his congregation to farm effectively.

Youngsters feed the hens during the open day at Highfields Farm which raised money for the relief trip Roger and friends made to Bulgaria.