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Pals drive to Bosnia on mercy mission; HUMANITARIAN AID: Convoy of Land Rovers will bring needed relief to war-torn area.

Byline: By Michael Corley

PALS from Warwickshire will be driving thousands of miles across Europe to help rebuild a region decimated by civil war.

Rob Clements and Terry Akiens, both from Hillmorton, in Rugby, are preparing to set-off on a two-week mercy mission to Bosnia, with the Balkan Aid Relief Foundation (BARF).

Conflict raged there from 1992-1995, resulting in the death of tens of thousands of people and the devastation of the region's social and economic infrastructure.

It will be another emotional return for Rob, who served as a peace-keeper for the United Nations in the two years after the fighting.

The 38-year-old father-of-four, who works as a mechanical engineer for Hafele, will hookup with the humanitarian aid convoy on Thursday.

He said: "This was a fantastic opportunity to help the people of Bosnia, a chance to go back and a wonderful experience I know I'll never forget - I can't wait.

"When I was there in the 90s it was a bit of a mess.

"Driving through the towns and villages you could see how completely bombed-out they were. People were living with nothing.

"It's great to see the Bosnians come such a long way. They've picked themselves up and done it all on their own."

BARF, a registered UK charity initially set up by Land Rover enthusiasts in 1997, spend all year collecting aid which they deliver biannually.

The convoys are made up of six vehicles that tow trailers packed with essential items.

Aid is given to schools, orphanages, hospitals and organisations for the disabled.

Even though war ended 13 years ago, the government doesn't have the cash to prop up the education and welfare systems.

The aid ranges from nappies, school supplies, computers, wheelchairs, toys, disabled electric buggies, clothes, sporting equipment, walking frames, and crutches.

Based in Banja Luka, Rob and Terry will help deliver the supplies with the help of Bosnian charity The Genesis Project.

Rob initially became involved with this charity in 2006 and was a codriver on the February 2007 convoy.

He enjoyed it so much he wanted to return with his own vehicle.

Sponsorship had to be sought for running costs which included, fuel, ferry tickets, insurance, permits, and vehicle preparation.

Rob and Terry stressed that their mission would have been impossible without the help of a number of county-based companies including, Keymed, Hafele, TW Tyres, Kite Packaging, D K Packing, GT Towing, and Guy Salmon Land Rover of Stratford.

CAPTION(S):

CONVOY... Rob Clements (left) with the Land Rover he will be driving on the convoy, and his friend Terry Akiens, who will also be heading to Bosnia on the two-week trip, and (inset) Bosnians help unload a vehicle from last year's mercy mission. Aid ranges from nappies and school supplies to wheelchairs, toys, clothing and crutches.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 6, 2008
Words:464
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