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Generous Hibees still doing it for Dnipro kids

June 20, 2006, 0:00 3311 Author: David Hardie, (dhardie [at] edinburghnews.com) sport.scotsman.com

BIG-HEARTED Hibs fans are to "adopt" another Ukrainian orphanage as the money continues to flood in ten months after Tony Mowbray's side faced Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the UEFA Cup.

What had been intended as a one-off donation to help stricken kids at the Predniprovsk Tuberculosis Children's Centre has mushroomed, leading to the Dnipro Appeal being registered as a charity in Scotland.

Already ?14,000 has been raised, astounding organiser Stevie Carr who is now set to make a third visit to Ukraine to assess the needs of the orphanage, which accommodates around 50 children aged between six and 16, to which the Easter Road fans are now turning their attention.

But Carr vowed that the youngsters at the Predniprovsk Centre won't be forgotten, pledging that aid from Edinburgh will continue hand-in-hand with the new venture. And Carr revealed that in an expansion of the help being supplied will be the setting up of a "sponsor a child" programme, allowing Hibs fans to follow the progress of the individual they are supporting.

He said: "To say the response from Hibs supporters has been beyond our wildest dreams would be quite an understatement.

"Originally we had intended the help to be a one-off to coincide with the team playing Dnipro in the UEFA Cup last September. Our aim then had been to raise ?2000 but, in fact, we brought in twice that amount."

Advised by American aid worker Mike Pratt who is based in Ukraine's second biggest city, winter shoes and clothing along with televisions, medical and other equipment was bought locally while the kids in the centre were showered with toys and, of course, dozens of Hibs strips.

And early this year Carr returned along with another organiser Colin Dudgeon to deliver further aid as Hibs fans continued to raise money for the children. He said: "We spend our money in Ukraine because it goes so much further than it does here while, obviously, you are limited as to how much you can take on a plane.

"Small things we take for granted mean so much to the children, the smiles and laughter you see from them receiving the littlest gift brings a tear to your eye such as the table tennis table we bought them.

"When we first went there, the kids were running about the playground in worn-out slippers, but on our second visit we could see each of them had new shoes or trainers, that was a big difference."

But the money raised also goes on basic essentials such as toiletries and maintaining the centre. Carr said: "In a couple of the rooms the floor tiles were all worn and broken so we organised to have them replaced while we've also bought bedding, dining tables and equipment for the classrooms. One of the two specialised dishwashers they have, which also disinfect because of the tuberculosis, is pretty clapped out so we are arranging to buy a new one. In addition the children also had a proper Christmas party, complete with presents and a puppet show."

Now, though, Carr and the others involved in running the charity, are looking to expand the help they are delivering.

He said: "There are at least six or seven other orphanages in Dnipropetrovsk. Three or four of them are well looked after by other charities but we have identified one we feel needs help.

"Around ?14,000 has come in since last September and at the moment we have ?6000 in our account. We'll be going much along the same lines as when we first started but we are hoping to start a sponsor a child scheme under which by paying a direct debit of ?10 each month people over here can help look after an individual child and get regular up-dates as to their progress.

"Initially, though, it will again be providing clothing, footwear and other basic necessities while continuing our support for the Predniprovsk Centre."

Although it is ten months since Hibs were in Dnipropetrovsk, Carr continues to be astounded as to how Easter Road fans continue to raise money for the Appeal.

He said: "We had one girl who rather than get birthday presents asked that donations in lieu be given to us which raised ?200 and only the other morning I had an e-mail from a guy who'd sponsored a player last season and now had his strip autographed and framed offering it for auction. That should bring in another ?200 or ?300."

Donations of clothing, shoes and toys also continue to be handed over although Carr admitted it was difficult to transport large amounts to Ukraine. He said: "Colin and I each had four crammed suitcases when we went out in January.

"It would be fantastic if perhaps a courier firm could offer some help in getting such donations even as far as Kiev where we could arrange for them to be picked up." That said, Carr appealed to Hibs fans snapping up the new home and away kit not to throw their old strips out, urging them instead to pass them over to the Appeal to be handed out to children in Dnipropetrovsk. He said: "We've simply been taken aback by the support we've had from our fellow fans. I don't think they'd let us stop now, they'd give us a really hard time if we said we felt we had done enough."

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