At 1030 a.m the meeting started with Chairman Neil Ramshaw advising that five apologies had been received.
A reminder was given that the Forum required a Deputy for Mike South to assist with the setting up/taking down on a Tuesday morning.
Today’s Speaker was Mr John Shackleton whose topic “Not for the Faint-Hearted” gave a flavour of his charitable activities in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia where he takes an ambulance loaded with medical supplies to places of need. He started his discourse by giving a short resume of his background which included National Service that extended to ten years mainly in Bomb Disposal. His career beyond the Forces saw him as a Greengrocer in Starbeck; an artistic period making Historical and Shakespearian Plaques and some time as a Property Developer.
In the 1990’s John heard about the problems and plight of Romanian Orphanages and orphans and felt a compulsion to provide assistance and he decided to fund raise to buy second-hand Ambulances, fill them with medical supplies and other donations such as knitted hats/scarves which he then transported to identified and researched locations mainly in Eastern Europe, always assisted by two co-drivers. This escalated into an ongoing programme which has seen him visit Eastern Europe forty-two times as well as other locations such as India and Nepal. His worst mechanical problem –a puncture!!..but having to contend with officialdom in different countries and at borders, some of it a little corrupt! There was always the background of situations involving personal risk; a thirty-two hour enforced “visit” to a Turkish prison cell and occasional inconvenient health problems. Recent visits have included Ukraine (the Crimea) which he is again planning to visit in May this year. The talk was supported by a detailed slide show and a display of artefacts from his visits including the cast of a nose; a spiked “defence” weapon; what passed for bottled water from one visit; mink and a fearsome Gurkha knife/weapon!! Places visited include Nepal, Georgia, India, Armenia, Ukraine, Northern Russia and Turkey with his slides and recollections giving a feel of some of the cultures but bringing home the reality of the very poor living conditions many of the natives live in. Questions and comments made at the end of the talk displayed the impact John had made.
The Vote of Thanks on behalf of the thirty-nine attendees was given by His Honour Judge Derek Clarkson and a collection for John’s works raised £102-40 in addition to the Forum’s £30 contribution for his visit.
NEIL RAMSHAW SECRETARY