HIBS supporters who have been sponsoring orphans in Ukraine for nearly a decade have spoken of their concerns over the escalating tensions in the country.
The Dniprokids Appeal was set up in 2005 when players and fans were preparing to travel to the Eastern European country for a match against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
After growing unrest in the country and a tense political stand-off with Russia threatening to erupt into war, those who helped out with the appeal said they were concerned about the effect the tensions would have on the children they had helped.
Dniprokids chairman Steven Carr, 47, said: “We are in constant contact with people in Ukraine who are keeping an eye on the children and at the moment they are all fine, but it’s obviously a very worrying situation.”
Russia and key Western leaders have been in crisis talks over the deployment of Russian troops in the Crimea area of Ukraine, 250 miles from Dnipropetrovsk.
The appeal was set up to help counter the sort of poverty which has been partially behind the recent unrest.
Mr Carr said: “The Tartan Army often donates to good causes abroad and as we knew Ukraine was a very poor country, we thought it would be nice to do something similar. We asked people if they had any ideas and the Odinkovka orphanage in Dnipropetrovsk was mentioned. We collected £2000 with a turnstile collection at the home leg, and went on to raise £16,000 in the first year.”
The money has been well spent, with funds providing clothes and being used to purchase medical equipment for local hospitals.
Mr Carr said: “One of the children, a girl named Nastya, was suffering from a spinal condition that could have eventually left her confined to a wheelchair, but the state would not pay for an operation because her condition was not life threatening.
“When we offered to pay for her surgery, a doctor told us if we officially donated money there was a good chance they would never see it. The pictures taken in former president Viktor Yanukovych’s estate give you an idea of where it would have been likely to end up. In the end, the hospital carried out the operation in exchange for the donation of a blood coagulation machine, so we were actually able to help even more people.
“We were actually supposed to be taking the children to Crimea this spring, but obviously we have had to cancel that,” added Mr Carr.
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