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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Charity trip with OPORA and the British Embassy
Yuri Fokin

Its Saturday morning and drizzling. I met Nicole Laurent of OPORA (Regional Humanitarian Aid Organization for Refugees a charity organization that organizes everything from food and clothing drives to training courses in handicrafts, family care and computers) at the British Embassy. I was seated in a respectable BMW with Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa, OPORAs General Director, and driven 40 kilometers from Moscow to a town called Zelynograd, more specifically the Zelynograd Refugee Centre.

During the journey, Dr. Gezahgn told me about the centre and the event that is to be held. The refugee centre has over 600 refugees from all over Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. Theyre building a community there a community that works not only for the refugee families, but for the local population as well. A Volkswagen station wagon filled with two passengers and a whole pile of computer hardware followed on behind. The two passengers were David and Gill Welsted, from the British Embassy, and the pile of computer hardware was six computers which David had single-handedly rebuilt (installing Russian-language versions of software and changing some of the parts, bought on personal donations from the embassy staff). These six computers were the reason our two-vehicle, seven-person strong mission was heading for Zelynograd OPORA and David Welsted were giving them to the refugee children.

When we arrived, the computers were quickly handed over to eagerly waiting children, and even more quickly installed. Children were already using them within an hour. David commented that all the computers are fitted with Windows 98 and an assortment of puzzle and arcade games stuff to get the kids typing, and train their coordination and critical thinking skills. He also says that he made sure none of the games had any violent material. A small reception followed chocolates for the children and a cup of tea with community director Sergei Sergeivich. Before we left, I managed to talk to some of the refugees, and only then did the total picture emerge. This is a big operation. About 600 people use the Centre, thanks to OPORA, to people like David Welsted, and the local administration. But the Center is more or less on its own. As you read this, OPORA is in need of second hand clothing for the refugees, and more substantial donations. If we dont help, nobody will. If you want to help please contact Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa General Director OPORA (495) 109-3354

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