`It's a long drive'

"IT'S a long drive, and maybe not the most efficient way of delivering aid, but we know it gets there," John Allsop says after the long trip to Travnik from Lincolnshire, England.

Mr. Allsop started driving food to Romania in 1989 and is still delivering supplies. His wife isn't so happy about it, he says, "but what can I do? I enjoy this." He says he has done all kinds of work, but nothing gives him the same satisfaction. The only problem is he doesn't get paid for it.

His partner, Barry Matthews, nods his head in agreement. "It grows on you," he says.

Allsop bought a truck to deliver aid. He has a small stock brokerage business back in Lincolnshire, but with the recession in Britain, his business is hurting. Mr. Matthews owns a pub.

The supplies come from their community. By raising funds through dances, coffee mornings, and individual donations, their group, Linc Aid, has collected enough money to make three or four trips a year.

Allsop and Matthews realize their effort is not making a big difference, but there are groups doing the same thing in communities all over Britain. They supply what the refugees have not seen in months: orange juice, soups, baby food, and canned food.

The refugees have been eating rice and bread every day for months, and to them Linc Aid's supplies do make a difference. The United Nations is supposed to bring them food, but here it mainly brings flour and rice - enough to keep them from starving, but lacking in the variety needed for a healthy diet. Many people are so sick of the rice that they throw it away.

Since Allsop delivers right to the door of the refugee camp, the refugees have a much better chance of receiving the food.

A lot of the food that comes from relief agencies to refugees is stolen, so there is often little left by the time it gets to the refugee center. Usually the Army gets a share, as do hospitals and people from the community. The mafia and the police usually claim something as well.

Linc Aid has a core of about 20 volunteers, but they have outfitted orphanages with modern dental and hospital equipment, and they have trained medical people who are working regularly in the orphanages.

Matthews says the British recession is making things harder for the volunteers. His home community is small; Lincolnshire has only 3,000 residents.

After their November journey, Allsop and Matthews returned to England to report on what the refugees need most. Allsop has since brought his truck back to drive supplies into Bosnia from Split, Croatia, for Feed the Children. Linc Aid continues to send aid to the Bosnian refugees.

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