Terry White describes one woman's efforts to bring relief to the embattled people of Bosnia AT the end of May. Sally Trench, Catholic aid worker and Director of the children's charity Spark, left Bicester in a single truck to carry food and medical supplies to starving children trapped by the fighting in Bosnia.
Much of the ten tonnes of food and medical equipment was donated by the people of Oxfordshire. Mrs Trench's moving appeal for the public to donate tins of foodstuff met with an enthusiastic response from members of the Catholic and Anglican congregations and more than 20 Oxfordshire schools.
Fr Aldo Tapparo, the local parish priest and the sisters at the Bicester Presentation Convent organised a storehouse and collection points for the aid. Additional staple food, such as brown rice. wheat and flour was donated by an Oxford-based charity.
Sally Trench was acutely aware that she could expect to find little help once inside Bosnia, but she hoped that the survival lessons learnt on previous convoys would keep her alive.
"Everybody is an enemy out there. The basic survival rules are simple. Never get out of your vehicle and provide a sniper with easy target practice. Never wind down your window, except to show your British passport and, even then, never enter into conversation. We are British, peaceful. nonmilitary and non-aggressive. Shrug your shoulders and smile at soldiers and keep them happy, with bribes if necessary. Keep the situation low key and we might survive."
Mrs Trench hopes to reach Sarajevo but accepts that few convoys without military protection ever get that far.
This remarkable woman's concern for children began 40 years ago when she was growing up alongside the homeless in the bomb sites of London. The next 20 years were spent running a school for delinquent children in London, while finding time to raise 10 children including adopted and step-children. After London she went to Leeds where she established Project Spark, a charity for disadvantaged children. More recently, the Project moved to Wendlebury in Oxfordshire where Orchard House has been used to care for underprivileged children and Bosnian refugees. When the Home Office blocked further rescue operations by refusing to grant the children visas. Mrs Tench decided to take food and medical supplies to them.
Sally Trench takes with her the prayers and good-wishes of the Christian communities in Oxfordshire and she will need them. As the situation continues to deteriorate in the former Yugoslavia, Aid Workers and their convoys are starting, to be targeted by irregular militia and regular troops of every persuasion.
In May, Lawrence Karre, a worker with the British charity. Direct Aid, and a Muslim family he was trying to rescue from the town of Vitez, narrowly escaped being executed by the Croatian HVO.
Karre saved their lives by agreeing to put his own life at risk again by crossing eight Muslim check points to negotiate the release and repatriation of the wife of one of the HVO soldiers imprisoned in Zenica.
On 29 May, near Novi Travnik, three Italians, including a volunteer with the Catholic charity Caritas, where ambushed and killed by troops in Bosnian government uniforms. Two other Italians survived the ambush, narrowly escaping a summary firingsquad by running into the forest.
Three days later, a United Nation's convoy was shelled near the town of Maglaj, killing two Danish drivers and wounding four other Danes with the UN contingent.
Once again, relief work is starting to require the highest forms of courage by Christians prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.