A KIT to create a hairdressing salon and a metal workshop in a prison has been shipped to Croatia by Swindon people.

The 13 volunteers also took 50 tons of aid and five tons of food to help 531 needy families in a 38-ton truck and six smaller lorries to the capital Prishtina.

Steve Donkersley spent two weeks in Croatia helping to take supplies to the outlying villages as part of the Hope and Aid Direct convoy.

Steve, 40, a careworker, is a regular at The Beehive on Prospect Hill which has supported the aid convoys since the war in Kosovo in 1999.

Hope and Aid Direct transports and distributes much needed medical supplies, food, clothing drugs and basic school equipment.

Steve's truck, which he took turns driving with Steve Walsh from Cheshire, initially went to villages near Macedonia on the northern borders with Serbia.

Some of the remote areas have had no aid for two years and still have 100 per cent unemployment. "The United Nations give a family of eight persons 60 Euros a month (£40) to feed themselves, buy clothes and pay for heating etc, but of course there is no electricity,'' said Steve.

"They were so generous offering us their local brew and coffee,'' said Steve. "The authorities encourage the refugees to return home but there is nothing there.''

On one of his trips out to one of remote villages, Steve's truck got stuck in the pot-holed road and bogged down in a large dip just before the entrance to the village.

"It was snowing and we kept slipping back down the hill,'' he said.

Finally by putting stones under the wheels they got the truck into the village which was still semi-abandoned.

All the villagers were over 70 years old. "The people were in a dreadful state they said they had come home to die,'' said Steve.

The convoy left them water filter boxes because there was no clean water, purification tablets, food, warm clothes and blankets to get them through the long cold winter.

Having unloaded the supplies they had the task of getting the lorry back down the hill.

Fortunately an American police patrol team turned up and saw them though the mud track.

"The villagers were so pleased just to be visited not just for the goods but to be recognised and they were so humbly grateful,'' said Steve.

The second week the convoy encountered even worse conditions in the transit camps which were built as temporary housing four years ago.

They were set up for the Albanian refugees who had been ethnically cleansed by the Serbians. One building housed 15 families with one room for six people, one shower and one toilet between 87 people.

"And that didn't work most of the time and all the floorboards were rotten.'' said Steve.

The Serb refugees are now finding the tables have been turned and they are equally suffering.

The Beehive continues to be a collecting point for donations of goods and cash and a centre for fund raising events including book sales and live music nights. Anyone wanting to donate should telephone (01793) 523197.