By Mark Murphy
Trustee, Yorkshire Aid Convoy
An aid convoy ready to go to eastern Europe in 2009.
I've been going to Romania since 1989 when I was involved with the Convoy of Hope, a disaster relief organisation.
It was my financial advisor at the time that first got me involved in this charity work.
Then in 2002, Simon Hartley and I, both businessman from Leeds set up our own charity, Yorkshire Aid Convoy, providing humanitarian aid to eastern Europe.
I have no particular link with Romania but I just had to help.
One vivid memory that sticks in my mind was getting invited to the opening of a new Romanian school.
Several things about that visit shocked me, one was the school was being opened before it was finished, but the other was seeing a pair of shoes on a step. When I looked round I saw a lot of children playing barefoot in the road, which was really just muck rather than a proper road. I was then told it wasn't their day to wear the shoes.
When you've seen something like that you just have to help.
A local charity decides how to distribute the aid
We are sending our next convoy to Romania in March with goods worth £2m loaded in five lorries. We are sending three, large, 26-ton vehicles and two smaller lorries.
Our convoy often contains ordinary stuff that we in Leeds might take for granted. Our organisation is very lucky to get some great support from companies donating materials we can put to good use.
On the ground we link up with a local Romanian charity, called Caritas, that decides how to distribute the aid. We take convoys to Ukraine too and link with similar local charities.
I would have stopped
Over the last few years raising the donations has been getting harder but this year we've done fantastically. It really seems that people dig deeper when they've got less themselves.
I just have to keep the convoys going, because if you pulled out, where is that £2m of help going to come from? To be honest, I would have stopped but it's difficult when the donations continue coming in. After all we are only giving time and a bit of money.
The volunteers we have involved with driving the convoy can all afford to do it, because we charge people to go. They actually pay £1,000 to come along and drive across Europe for nine days.
So it's not cheap but it pays for vehicle hire, fuel, ferry costs, tolls and accommodation. In fact £1,000 is a bit steep but with any money is left over after our expenses we are hoping to pay off a sum of money still owing on a new vehicle being used by Caritas.
We are next leaving Leeds on Monday, 1 March and sailing, via Hull, for Sfantu Gheorghe in Transylvania, Romania on our next trip. We aim to be home on Tuesday, 9 March 2010. In all it will be a 4,500 kilometre round trip.