Everywhere We Go! – Macedonia, September 2008 (Donation 24)

Topaansko Pole
Snezana Daycare Centre

Saturday 6 September by Micky Ross

Introduction

The Macedonia donation was driven by the Tartan Army Children’s Charity. The TASA donation of £1000 helped make up their total donation of £12,000. These funds were split between two charities in Skopje and the two presentations took place on the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before the match.

Snezana Daycare Centre

Here’s a description of the first beneficiary in their own words (well an English version of their own words, obviously – I still find Macedonian tricky).

The Association for protection of children rights manages the day-care centre and currently works with two volunteers who manage all activities in the centre and provide for about 30 children. The children have otherwise been left on the streets begging and have not been taken care by their parents from many different reasons.  The day-care centre succeeded to initiate and maintain the contact with the parents who gave the consent for the children to spend the day in the centre. Besides meeting the basic needs – food, hygiene, health checks the children also do educational activities, sports and other outdoor activities, music and art workshops, have guests and make visits.

Here’s what happened:

A 17 strong band of Scotland fans met up outside the Holiday Inn on a sweltering day in September. With temperatures in the high thirties, it wasn’t kilt weather, but where the kids are concerned, a show must go on! There was a wee bonus for the gathering throng as just before we were due to leave, the Scotland team bus arrived and decanted its contents into the hotel. Having seen the state some of the guys were in already, (that’s fans not players), we questioned the sanity of such a move.

When all the fans had arrived, Victor from the NGO (the local organisers) sorted us out with a fleet of taxis and soon we were on our way to the Suto Orizari part of town – an area with a 100% Roma population.

We were there to officially hand over £4,000 worth of clothing, shoes and other products as donated by the Tartan Army Children’s Charity.  (TASA had donated just under 10% of this amount). We had the fine presence of the Caledonian Brewery pipe band to set the scene outside the venue.

We danced a jig with the kids till the staff were ready to receive us inside. There was an unexpected presence too when three local camera crews showed up and started filming it all.

Inside we were shown into a room where the bundles of items the donation had bought were piled. There was a serious amount of stuff in there and it was heart warming to know that the TACC cash was going to make a real difference. I had mentally prepared a shortish speech to explain to the staff and children just exactly what we were doing there, but this had to be changed at the last minute when they indicated that since it was to be used for TV, I’d need to keep it brief. Some extremely off the cuff mental editing ensued! It fair made the sweat run down the inside of my Glengarry. Apparently, the footage they took from this event was broadcast on all the news bulletins on Macedonia’s main TV station that day. Great publicity for the Tartan Army and Scotland.

Next, we were invited through to larger activity room and seated. The kids were then invited through and lined up to sing us some songs.  There were quite a diverse range of ages present and they provided some great entertainment. They also presented everybody in the room with a flower – hand-made from paper – a really touching thought. They had also presented us with a rather clever framed flower picture where the flower heads were made from pencil sharpenings! After this little ceremony, we handed out the bags of sweets donated by the Kirkcaldy Tartan Army. It would be fair to say there was mayhem for a while then panic as we discovered that one poor wee kid didn’t get one. Thankfully we found the culprit who had snaffled two packs!

The Snezana staff had also set up some party food for the kids which was part of the donation. When they got the go ahead, there was a blur for 5 minutes as the kids descended upon the table. When they moved away and I surveyed the scene, I found it difficult to get the phrase “like a herd of locusts” out of my mind, even though it does have rather pejorative connotations. But it served to reinforce just what a treat it was for these kids.

The Caledonian Brewery boys tuned up again and the kids danced around the room. It was just about time to go, but before we did, the staff asked if we could make a hand print picture. They got out some paints and poured them in trays. We took turns to dip a hand in one of the trays and so leave a physical memory of our visit. Apparently this was the kids’ idea and they asked us to sign our name next to the print.

Topansko Pole

Here again, is a description of the organisation in their own words.

The institution for rehabilitation of children and young people “Topaansko Pole” is a public institution working on social services, which enables observation, rehabilitation and correctional treatment, education and vocational training, as well as cultural, entertaining, sports and other activities for children with severe mental disability.

The overall process is run by an expert team and is broken up into several units, education unit, vocational training unit, adult day-care centre, day-care centre “Smile” for children aged 18 years or less with moderate and severe mental disability and a boarding school with a kitchen.  The activities are managed depending on the needs and the psychological and physical abilities of its beneficiaries – persons with moderate and severe mental disability.

120 beneficiaries are treated there, out of which 60 are with boarding accommodation.

The institution is not in a position to continually provide finances of the old inventory and sanitary equipment.

Here’s what happened:

Saturday was match day, but it was an early start for the troops attending the 2nd charity donation of the trip.  This time, TACC had donated £8,000 for the renovation of the toilet block and to provide new beds. (And again, just under 10% of the donation came from TASA).  The beds hadn’t been changed since the building was put up in 1970.  Hmmm, poor choice of words. The beds hadn’t been renewed since 1970.

We congregated in a hall area just inside the main door where Colin (KiltedBlue2) and Bruce (Jacobite Piper) entertained the assembled throng. This particular throng consisted of around 20 Tartan Army footsoldiers, a few hospital staff, the NGO’s Victor and Loreta, the British Ambassador and his wife and baby.

Once we had managed to persuade Colin to stop playing (no mean feat – only kidding Colin), we were entertained by a pre-arranged set of dances performed by some of the resident teenagers. It brought a tear to the eye to see the effort they were putting in, as some of them looked a little shy to be doing this in front of so many strangers.

After this, we were guided to another part of the complex where the kids stayed. We were shown through some of the rooms. The troops handed out bags of sweets as we went.

Upstairs we saw the beds that had been replaced. The rooms looked quite bright and airy. Some of the troops left a few gifts on the beds.  Then it was back to the first building where the toilet block had been revamped. The facilities were nice and clean but still quite modest so we could only imagine how bad they had been beforehand. In fact we didn’t have to – there were some photos on the walls. It was quite impressive that they’d managed to get everything ready for our visit. It’s not something I’d have had confidence in happening here.

We all congregated again in an area upstairs. The manager of the complex made a speech thanking us for our visit and donations. I was invited to respond and mumbled something about coming to show the kids a good time and being humbled that they had done that for us instead. The hospital had prepared a certificate to mark the occasion and Carey accepted on behalf of TACC.

After this the kids were invited to join us and go and eat their party food.  They had also laid on a spread for us. We felt a little embarrassed about having any, as we’d insisted that the party was for the kids. However, suspecting that they paid for this our of their own pocket, we figured they might be offended if we refused.

Everybody started to mingle and special mentions must go to Brocher 68 who seemed to be a natural getting the kids to laugh. Also to Eric The Cheeseman for his remarkable rendition of the Macedonian National anthem. The kids were genuinely enthralled with this. But it feels unfair to pick out individuals as everyone who turned up was a star. Many had helped carry things over and even brought their own donations. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!! to each and every one of you.

Macedonia

Hands up if you want a kilt for Christmas

As a little postscript to this, it was nice to know that our efforts had been well publicised in Macedonia. The visit to Snezana was repeated on regular TV news bulletins, and both donations had been reported in all the papers. According to my Macedonian friend, the locals were very impressed by the Tartan Army as a whole and genuinely touched by the visits to both charities.

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