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Charity champ back from Bosnia mission
Sunday 4th February 2018 @ 00:25 by Nigel Skinner
News Stalybridge Tameside

Christmas memories are far from fading for ‘Santa’ Rod Howat who is just back from his latest mercy mission to Bosnia.

For the big-hearted pensioner saw close up how much the simple presents from generous folk from across the region meant to the pitifully poor children in townships near Tusla.

And the charity champ, who was unable to make his festive visit last year after suffering a heart attack and undergoing surgery, wasn’t going to let a dose of the flu stop him this time.

He said: “The children went berserk when they saw me and the presents, whooping and shouting, they were so happy.

“I made sure all the children received presents suitable to their age and whether they were a boy or girl.

“I put them in plastic bags which I took and gave them to the families I know.

“Others I put on big trestle tables in the villages.

“The children knew when I would be there, notices saying when I was arriving would be put up on posters and walls.”

Rod, 75,  who drove his Land Rover all the way from his Glossop home to Bosnia, also kept gifts back for the country’s street children.

“I drove to the places, where the children live rough and gave them their presents…when they saw me they rushed out.”

Rod, who was born and brought up in Oldham and had businesses in Oldham and Hyde, also crammed his Land Rover with 500 pairs of shoes, all given by people locally.

They had all been dropped off at the Timpson’s outlet that Matt Wilde from Stalybridge, runs adjacent to Tesco’s on Glossopbrook Road.

Many freely repaired by Mike in his spare time.

Rod who started his mercy missions more than 25 years ago, suffered a heart attack around a year back, but was determined to make his Santa run.

Still not feeling completely well he had booked over-night accommodation stays all the way to Bosnia.

But ferry problems caused a missed booking which meant one over night sleep in the Land Rover wedged between shoes and toys in sub-zero temperatures.

With the flu that hit Britain sweeping eastern Europe it was tough going, with Rod himself falling ill, but he refused to give up.