OXFORD DADS TEAM HELPS UKRAINE

3 Oxford dads and a Canadian go to Ukraine, taking 8 pallets of medical aid and sanitary and hygiene products and also bringing back with them 16 Ukrainians, 2 dogs and a cat displaced from their homes back to safety in the UK.

Four weeks ago, the EdenAid (https://www.edenaid.org/) made their first trip to Ukraine. Last week Troels Henriksen, Darryl Mattocks, Andrew Pitts and Mark Ryhorski (the Canadian) joined them and repeated this trip taking 4 palettes of medical supplies and 4 pallets of sanitary & hygiene products of to the border of Ukraine and bringing 16 Ukrainians, displaced from their homes, back to safety.

Andy, Mark, Darryl, Max, Jeff & Troels

EdenAid had been contacted by a group of Canadian paramedics including Jeff & Max, in the picture above with us, who asked if they could urgently bring medical supplies stored at warehouses in the Lake District to meet them at the Ukrainian border. The logistical challenge was to get these supplies to a rendezvous point on the border, at a specific time to meet an ambulance that the paramedics had purchased in Italy just the day before! Once at the border, the ambulance needed to be packed full of all the medical supplies brought from the UK and driven straight down to Kyiv.

Rasmus Henriksen, one of the drivers from EdenAid’s first trip, reached out to his brother Troels to see if he could help. Within 24 hours he and a bunch of friends dropped everything and cleared their diaries for the trip. Two Oxford schools, Abingdon School and Headington School, kindly lent the team their minibuses and the race was on to make the meeting with the paramedics on time.

The journey started in Oxford on Friday 15th April when they filled up one of the minibuses with aid (medical supplies, sanitary & hygiene products, and baby food) which had been collected by the Wantage & Grove Community Group. They then headed off to Newcastle via the warehouse in Penrith for the medical supplies which filled the second minibus. From Newcastle, they took the overnight ferry to Amsterdam and then drove through Netherlands, Germany and Poland to reach the Ukrainian border in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

At the border, they arrived just in time and delivered all the medical supplies to the paramedics and the pallets of sanitary supplies and baby food to a distribution centre in Lublin run by Help Ukraine – https://helpukraine.center/ for onward distribution into the Ukraine or local refugee centres as required.

Once loaded the ambulance was then driven into Kyiv itself by Jeff and Max, the two Canadian paramedics for delivery to a Childrens Hospital … obviously that is a whole other story, but I think the picture above says a lot about the dangers they faced near Kyiv.

The 4 of us with a grandma, 8 mums, 7 kids, 2 dogs and a cat

Delivery of aid was just part one of the objective. The Second part was to help Ukrainians displaced from their homes fleeing the dangerous situation in Ukraine to reach their host families in the UK plus a drop off in Dusseldorf! Over the 2 days they had travelled out to Poland our fifth team member, Olga, a wonderful Russian blogger, had found 9 Ukrainians displaced from their homes seeking safe travel back to the UK where they had secured Visa’s and been matched up with host families. However, that still left 5 available seats.

So the Team now travelled to the Ukrainian refugee centre in Chelm, 25kms from the Ukrainian border, where they we collected 4 Ukrainians displaced from their homes, needing help getting to the Dusseldorf refugee centre where they would be matched up with hosts in Germany. Once on board the team headed for Calais with stops in Warsaw and Poznan to collect the 9 Ukrainians displaced from their homes and destined for the UK, together with their 2 dogs and a cat. But that wasn’t the end of the story. On arrival in Calais and after clearing the animals through Pet Reception at customs in Calais the team were asked by the Border Officials “you couldn’t take an extra Mum and her two daughters could you?”. Problems with their paperwork at the border meant they had been left behind by a bus earlier in the week. The answer was obviously “yes” and so we brought 12 Ukrainians back to the UK who are all now settling in well in their sponsor’s homes, which is remarkable considering what they have been through. The dogs and cat are also doing well and are significantly happier now that they are not all sharing the same minibus!

EdenAid are continuing their efforts of delivering aid into the Ukraine and helping displaced people to reach secure places to stay. In the past week, we have sent 20 tonnes of flour to bakeries near Kyiv, and another trip to deliver yet more aid and collect more Ukrainians is currently underway.

On his return, Darryl commented:

What a roller coaster of emotions. We wanted to make a difference to as many people as we could and being able to help like this was a privilege. Thanks to all my clients who were so understanding when it came to rescheduling meetings at the last minute and to Abingdon and Headington Schools for their support. These people have been through so much and have so little – their entire lives were literally packed into one or two small bags. The absence of men at any of the refugee centres, and all that this implies, was particularly chilling”.

Every passenger has their own story, and it is important we do not pry or ask them about what they have been through, the last thing we want to do is stir up horrible memories for them. However, some open up to us and share a little.

One mum travelling with her 2 little girls and their gorgeous Bulldog, Falcon, shared pictures of when they were sleeping in their hallway with mattresses down the sides to protect them after their windows were all blown out. Things then got even worse and they had to move into their basement.

Another proud mum tells of her 13-year-old daughter, Margot’s, paintings. This one depicts how a Ukrainian soldier restrains Russian aggression and does everything possible to preserve his homeland. On the left are symbols of Russian aggression, the symbol Z, birches, bear and blood. And on the right are Ukrainian symbols: poppies, storks, embroidery…

Or they talk of the families left behind … mum and daughter now fleeing the war and heading to the UK but all the men in this picture are still at home fighting. Ordinary people like you and I, torn apart by this insane war.

We wish all our beautiful Ukrainian families the best and hope they can all feel safe and secure here in the UK and soon be reunited with their loved ones back in Ukraine. We will also be doing more trips and hope we can see more lovely stories, like the girls here, on their first day at a new school here the UK, just 6 days after arriving here.

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