A Hobby Comes in Handy in COVID-19 Fight

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The members of Off-Road Club Velingrad use their hobby to help people in remote villages receive much-needed food supplies and disinfectants. Their initiative was supported with a donation from the StandingTogether financial assistance program of US Embassy Sofia and the America for Bulgaria Foundation. This is their story:

Когато с хобито си бориш кризата с Ковид-19 | A Hobby Comes in Handy in COVID-19 Fight from America for Bulgaria Foundation on Vimeo.

The story is a joint production of BG Voice and the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

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In times of bad news, viruses and death, empty cities, and lives on hold, there are stories that show that good is more contagious than the coronavirus.

Stories of good deeds are everywhere around us.

Today we will visit the Velingrad Off-Road Club. Their mission is to leave no one behind in these difficult times – even people in the remotest corners of Bulgaria.

The villages of Golak and Lessichevo are relatively close to Velingrad – located high up in the Sredna Gora forests – which makes them hard to reach.

Golak is one of those villages that could soon disappear.

“They have four residents, with no access to transportation, and apart from off-road vehicles, nothing else can get to these places. Our idea is to periodically deliver medicine, food products, disinfectants, to see that everything is OK, and then we go on to the next location,” says Yordan Todorov from the Velingrad Off-Road Club about the initiative.

The closest place to Golak village is the town of Vetren, 12 km away, along a dirt road. Despite being almost disconnected from the rest of the world, some of the residents have lived here for 20 years.

“How do we live like that? Well, it’s not easy. We look after our animals. It’s been like that since we were kids, we’re used to it,” shares 53-year-old Blagoy, one of the four residents of Golak.

He goes down to Vetren on foot or on his bicycle. In the summer, it takes him 2.5 hours in one direction, much longer in the winter. “When the snow is up to your waist, it’s hard to walk,” he explains.

That is why the residents prefer not to leave Golak in the winter.

“In the winter here, there’s plenty of wood, you bring up the heat in the fireplace, I fell trees in the forest, when snow falls I shovel, I move around, no problem,” says Milcho Pashov, who prefers to look on the bright side of things.

Getting supplies of high-need products, however, is difficult. This is why, apart from counting on themselves, the village residents often rely on the Velingrad Off-Road Club. The club members have been making the dirt-road trip to Golak on a regular basis, come winter or summer, for eight years now.

“Especially in the winter, when there’s no reaching this place, our SUVs get through. We come for the big holidays, once in the summer, and once in the winter. We deliver things for Easter. There used to be 5–6 residents, now four are left. Unfortunately, there are fewer of them with time,” Yordan Todorov says.

In times of quarantine, this help is even more important. Golak’s residents eagerly await their Off-Road Club friends and the deliveries. With their latest delivery on May 1, club members brought cooking oil, sugar, flour, lentils, beans, canned food, including fish, cheese, and cured meats.

“They don’t even have a fridge, so the food products need to be in vacuum-sealed packages to last at least a month or so in these conditions. In general, [we bring] things that are most needed,” Yordan explains.

The club’s initiative was supported by the StandingTogether financial assistance program of the America for Bulgaria Foundation and US Embassy in Bulgaria.

The deliveries were also eagerly awaited at the Home for Children without Parental Care in the village of Lessichevo.

“We currently have 19 children. They’ve been very good kids. We try to provide them with all they need. The main thing is to ensure a family-like living environment. I think we’ve been successful. We mostly make sure they’re healthy and well. Their education is our other priority,” says the director of the home, Neycho Toshev.

And although the Velingrad Off-Road Club managed to bring joy and positive emotions to the home’s residents, the guys don’t consider what they’re doing heroic.

“It’s from the heart, it’s from us, we want to do this. We all need kindness. No one’s made us do it, and that makes us feel good,” Yordan Todorov says.

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