mandag 30. desember 2013

SAS Juleflyet 2013, Tallinn

Tallinn, a beautiful old city where you can see the old traditions are still being kept. Beautiful buildings in an Old Hansa town, the prices are good compared to most of West Europe, it's cheap. You have it all here for a great weekend getaway, food, drink, shopping, sightseeing and everything else you can desire. 

The Christmas market is where everybody gathers during the day to drink the traditional Glögg and watch to the entertainment from the stage. You can walk around and buy great quality wolly jumpers, gloves, hats, everything that is warm and good for winter you will find here. For those of you have been here I'm sure you are thinking, yes, I remember that, that's where I got my hat, socks, gloves etc. 

This is a different story, this is how I know Tallinn and this is very different from yours!

My story starts here!

6th of December 2013, what we have worked for all year is about to become a reality, this is my 5th or 6th time doing this, being a party of something special and meaningful. It is the departure of SAS Christmas flight.

I'm not going to get into depth about what this is, because I have written a blog post from a few years ago where I explain the whole history behind the whole thing. However, after reading this and seeing my picture I think you will understand what this is all about.  

Just to give you a quick summary of the SAS Christimas flight or SAS Julefly as it is called in Norwegian, it is a charity where we help people in the slum and the poorer parts of Tallinn, Estonia. Mainly we help an orphanage with food, clothes, money and everything else you can imagine. If you live on the streets or in a building that are about to fall apart, with no electricity, no water, no safety and on top of this you do not exist in the system as you are neither Estonian or Russian (this is from the war and explained in my blog post 2011), you need all the help you can get. Many of the children on the orphanage comes from this situation, some from even worse situations (the worst thinkable for a child). 

Whats different with this charity from other charities is that we use a whole year to collect all the stuff we can get, food, clothes, hygiene articles, candles, school stuff, bags, shoes, toys, blankets, everything you can possibly imagine, money and we deliver it our self! No middle people who will take any money to do any jobs, no cost, we do everything on our free time (like all organisations). Absolutely everything we collect we have the pleasure of deliver to the Orphanage where the manager Mati takes care of it and hand it out to the people who needs it over the next year. If you gave me a gift and said give this to someone special over there, I will personally give that gift to that person. And when you have 80 people and their sponsors doing this, every little thing gets to the receiver and we are there to make sure of it.

Before the flight departed, for the 11th time to Tallinn and for the 27th time all together, we had sent 4 trucks with goods already. The flight was loaded to its maximum anyway though. 

That's me, proud and happy to be a part of this. I also helped with some of the luggage that was sent and there were loads of great stuff to be handed out later that evening and the next day. 

The excitement is building up at the gate and we are so ready to just set off and visit the children at the Orphanage PEETELI. If you notice the last pictures you can see an article from that days newspaper, about the "father" of the Christmas Flight, Karsten Midtun.

On board we are being told a little bit about what is going to happen during the weekend and that we have a tight schedule so it is important that we all help each other with all the luggage we have sent. And trust me, it was a lot so I knew what kind of job awaited us at Tallinn Airport. But it is all fun though.

You won't understand it until you have experienced it, but the flight crew on this flight is such a great crew. They are amazing! The whole flight experience is so different from an ordinary flight, you get to have a look in the cockpit or you can help serve coffee or tea if you want to do that. We also have to clean the aircraft our self as we do not get any cleaning in Tallinn airport (as this is a charity thing), but the whole crew manage to turn that into something great and people can walk off the aircraft and say,"Yeeesss, I got to help cleaning up the rubbish, walked through the aisle with the trolley and everything". This is when and where all 85 of us is getting to know each other and start bonding and building a great friendship. Some of us have done this a lot of times before and know each other and some people are in on this for their first time.

So, collecting all the bags, suitcases and boxes on the baggage belt and then it is time to go see the children (and young adults as some of them are teenagers).

They are so happy when we arrive and they are very exited to see us and later perform for us inside the church (this is also where the orphanage is, attached to the church).

After some of the key people have spoken and there has been some singing from a great artist Camilla (beautiful voice on that one). We get to see some pictures from the not so great areas and tiny flats, and we got to hear the story of a (then) four year old little boy. This story was just from the beginning of this year!

When we learned what kind of situation he had grown up in, violent dad and drug addict mum, you kind of understood his behavior problems straight away. It was heartbreaking hearing this little boys story. But thank good for Mati and Solveig. Solveig has a long summer camp in  Norway every year where the kids and their mum can come, and she is in Tallinn a lot doing all kinds of charity work, and all the children and mums love her. She has dedicated her life now to take care of those who need it, and she is doing a great job.

So this little boy was taken to this camp for three months and even though it was very hard in the beginning, his behavior changed, a lot. A physio student in Tallinn, Peter (only aged 22) went whit the little boy to be his "dad" for the three months. Thanks to him and the camp this boy changed and learned that life was not the way he had grown up so far, and that he had people around him who loved him, cared for him and made sure he was safe. The little boy started after a while to say that he never wanted to go back to his dad again and sadly the day came where he had to. The screaming and crying from this little boy was horrific and I can only imagine how hard it was to bring him back to his dad, where you knew he would be abused. Thank good, the police came and arrested his father after a few weeks and the little boy got to move into PEETELI and is now in the care of the people there. He now has a safe and secure environment to grow up in.   

That's him giving Karsten and Mati a red rose and sitting on Matis lap to hear one of the other kids (young adult) sing for them. And after that the kids performed for us!

You simply fall inn love with each and every one of them, no matter age or gender. The joy of seeing each other again is overwhelming and you know right then and there that these are the children you want to help the best way you can for as many years as possible. We all depend and rely on one another now.

After the performance we walk around the church and orphanage and the kids who live there are more than happy to show us their rooms. It is so nice to see that they have a safe and protective environment to grow up in and that they no longer have to stay on the streets or in families who can't or won't take care of them.

The time came when we had to go to the hotel and start to get ready for the next day, however, before that we went out for a little walk around the hotel area, we always stay at Sokus Viru Hotel (actually a former KGB hotel, and if you are every there, make sure to go on the KGB guided tour). The hotel is located in the heart of the old city of Tallinn.

Early start  next day in order to be able to do all the stuff that has been planned for such a long time. It is going to be a long day, but we are prepared for that. It starts in Kopli, the slum of Tallinn where the people who live there have no electricity or water in the houses, the houses should have been abandoned a long time ago as they now are a hazard for everyone.

This day in Kopli we were working with people from the military and the Salvation Army. The red car in this picture is an old Posten van from Norway which they have given to the Salvation Army in Tallinn.

 All together we are about 90 people who are here in Kopli to help serve some food and get the people some clothes and some food they can bring home with them or if there is anything else they need that we can give them. Warm, cosy, wolly "bags" for babies we had a few of and that was something they desperately needed. Will bring back lots more next year. It is never easy to see little babies or children walk around in this area knowing they have nothing and if it weren't for the help we provided they could easily freeze to death. All we really work for here is to get the children into school and daycare so they, at some stage, can make a life for themselves and get out of this misery.

This year we had bags of fruit for the children mainly, however there was so much we could give it to ever wanted it. We also had small bags with shampoos and soaps that the airline crew have collected from their hotel stays over the past year.

Inside these tents is where we had the food, and there was also some tables so the people who wanted to sit down could to that. Tried to make it a bit brighter with some music and candles and hopefully it was something good for the people even if it was only for an hour or so.

Here is Mati organizing everything, if it weren't for him I think it would be complete chaos. But this is a very respected man and everybody knows that nothing will be given away if they don't listen to him about how to go about this. This is only to make sure that everybody gets what they need and that everything is equally divided between the people.

It is also so nice to see some of the people you have seen in Kopli over the past years, see how they have changed, many for the better. They have more and better clothes and they act different. I'm definitely not asking them to be happy and cheerful, because at the end of they day they don't really have anything to be happy about, but there are so many people who are so happy to see us and they thank us over and over again. I think we manage to spread some joy for that 1 day, wish it could be more.

When you look at the pictures it can be difficult to see who is the people from Norway and who is the receivers for all the stuff we bring. That shows a good sign though, that means that the help we give them gets there. I think I can say with almost 100% certainty that almost all the clothes the people are wearing is from Norway and Juleflyet. But it doesn't meant that our work is done here. There is always something we can help the people with, like this girls who had a defect wheelchair. One of our flight technicians and the flight captain tried everything they could to help her with the wheelchair.

This year we also had some new men's winter jackets and that was off course very popular and needed.

It was so popular with all the clothes and the food we had in the vans and in the boxes that we had to be very careful when giving it our, so we could spot the people who needed it most in case we did not have enough stuff for absolutely everybody.

Some of us also visited some families who lives in Kopli in the condemned houses. It looks like a ghost town when you walk around there, never knowing what house the people might live in as it looks completely dead.

There are some families living in all the houses that are in the pictures above.You would not think so by looking at the houses as they looks like they are going to fall apart at any moment, which they also might do.

Here is the house of the first family we visited, but it is only one room where they can live as there is no electricity or water in these buildings and as I already said, they can fall apart at any moment

We were about 7 people who visited the family (they were two adults) and it was very crowded in that one room they live in. It was completely dark as well, except that little light and heat they got from the fireplace and the firewood that Juleflyet had provided them (without they most likely would not have made it through the winter). It was very nice to also be able to present them with two full bags of food.

The two next pictures are a bit blurry and that's because you have to use the flash on the phone in order to see something. The pictures shows the kitchen.

The rest of the pictures is taken from the inside of the house, and it very easy to see that this is absolutely no way of living.

All the houses in Kopli are the same, a sad heart breaking story.

It is never easy to see other people live like this, and it kind of hits you very hard in the face that this is the reality for millions of people around the world.

After the visit in Kopli our group of about 90 people were divided up and had different things to do. Some of us went to a hospital for homeless people, others went on family visits and a lot of us had to go straight to a place called Salme, where we were having the Christmas party for children and their families.

I went on a family visit with 7 other people including a girl from the social services in Tallinn. In the first family there were a mother with two kids. Only the little boy was home as the little girl where helping setting up in Salme with the rest of the kids at the orphanage/day care center. Their Christmas wish was roller skates and football stuff, and we had brought all that with us to give to them.

He is very fond of football (soccer) and we got to see his collection of medals.

As you can see from the picture above, the room is not that big, and this is were all three of the sleep, eat and stay when they are home. They do have another room as well that was suppose to the the bathroom. This is an apartment given by the county in co operation with the social services.

The next family lived only in the next building, and here you had a mom, dad and one child. Same standard aging, one room where they eat, sleep and stay in when they are at home. This little girl got ice skates, clothes and shoes.

This room was actually a little bit smaller than the previous family's and it was pretty crowded with 10 people in there. It is a good thing that the children can go to the daycare center.

Here you can see a little bit of the bathroom, only thing that was in there was an old broken toilet, a small sink and a washing machine, no shower.

I also took some pictures in the hall way of the building an outside. Pretty sad looking to be honest.

After visiting the families we all had to meet up in Salme to prepare for the event there. Every year we expect around 600 people to show up, and there is a lot of preparations that needs to bee done.

I think this was the fifth year we had this event, and it is more or less the same every year. The families arrive around three ish and then the children have some time to run around and play before the show.

There was one thing that was very different this year from the previous. One of the photographer that has been involved in SAS Juleflyet for some time now, decided that she wanted to do something special for everybody. She brought her photo studio stuff with her from Norway, a laptop, a printer and fixed a lot of frames and she was able to take family pictures of the families that was at the Christmas event. That is something they would never ever be able to do if it wasn't for our Photographer Guro Skjeldrup. It was very touchy to see how they all reacted to that, and it was wonderful that someone cared so much to to this for so many other people.

Off course this was very time consuming for the photographer so she had to to this before, during and after the show.

For the event this year we had brought a clown with us and I think the children though it was great fun. I did have time to see some of it and I laughed a lot as did the children.

After the event it was time for food.

There is no Christmas party without a Santa though, so we had a few Santa's who gave all the children a candy bag each, just the way it should be. Some of the children was very exited to see Santa and it was such a great moment when they took out the candy they had gotten and wanted to share that with Santa Clause.

The Christmas event was still not quite finished because in co operation with the social services we made sure that all the families that had been to this event could walk home with a couple of bag with food. I am so glad that so many people helps SAS Juleflyet with this, by buying Familiepakker, because this is what all you people do..............

It's only with the support from all the people who buy these Familiepakke, a card which proves that you have given 200,- NOK, that we are able to do this. Every single one who supports us here deserves a big THANK YOU!

All that is left now is to hope we can do the same thing again next year! To finish off I have a few pictures I have to post here :)

PS! As I mentioned we had a pretty great crew, and here Arne Johan is still selling the SAS Julefly book.

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