Hope and Pizza: A Volunteer’s Account of Bringing Aid to Ukraine’s War-Torn Communities

Putting Eden Aid to one side for a second. I’m sitting in Poland having just been to Ukraine to make pizzas with the Siobhan’s Trust. So please indulge me as I post a few ramblings and pictures of my trip … this insane war is still far from over … let’s not forget these very tough but innocent victims.

We spent three very different days in the field but what they all had in common was that, yes we were serving pizza and playing great music, but underlying it we were giving these people hope and a realisation that the West are there, on the ground, helping and caring. The smiles and fist bumps you get from everybody, young & old, is very special.

Very emotional, very tiring but above all else very special … you can’t stop yourself wanting to come back and help. I’m already planning my next trip.

Day 1 … in a central park in Irpin, as close as the Russians ever got to Kyiv back in March 22, and though they left 12 months ago the scars were still very visible on many buildings. 1,400 pizzas served.

Day 2 … just north of Bucha in Borodyanka and this is where it really hit home hard just what these people must have lived through. Devastated areas hit by artillery fire and fighter jets … apartment blocks destroyed, and a township left in ruins with people left to fend for themselves as the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, are busy elsewhere. It’ll be years before these people get what they need to rebuild their houses and their lives. 1,300 pizzas served.

Pictures of the building opposite our pitch today – hit by a warplane in Mar 22

And 1 kilometer down the road more carnage caused by retreating Russians in March 2022 and what that means for those left behind.

And in the middle of that destruction, Banksy has nailed the Ukrainian spirit.

Day 3 … totally different. We were asked by the local police to go to a residential area west of Kyiv, Sviatopetrivske. No damage here but we spent the day surrounded by school kids of all ages … some young with mum’s or grandparents, some older with all the hair/piercing/clothes fashion diversity of our own schools at home … and then the old, the poor and the vulnerable who may have had nothing before the war but who now really have absolutely nothing and nobody to help them. We saw them every day and it was heart-breaking to see, but at the same time reinforcing the importance of what the Siobhan’s Trust are doing here … bringing food, smiles and, just as critically, hope and the reminder that there are people who care about them. 1,500 pizzas served.

The team when we were here .. I should say a huge thanks to Jozef Mycielski for introducing us to the Siobhan’s Trust and for bringing me out here to visit and to the incredible man that is David Fox-Pitt who heads it all up … they are the crazy blokes in the Slava Ukraini tartan skirts!!

Obviously, the Siobhan’s Trust is just like Eden Aid, run by incredible volunteers some of whom have been out there for 10 months and who, just like us, rely totally on funding and volunteers to keep them going.

So … What can we / you do?

Volunteer – without volunteers they couldn’t operate. Can you spare 2 weeks? It’s amazing … I promise. They have operations in Lviv, Kyiv and Zaporizhia – plus a roving team which I suspect will be heading Kharkiv way as soon as the latest donated Van arrives next week. It is a nation at War and obviously you will need to make your own minds up. But … this was my experience – I just spent a night in Lviv (a busy and vibrant East European city without the stag parties and very little military presence!) and 3 nights in Kyiv (a busy capital city trying to get back to normality with military checkpoints around the perimeter .. though we were never stopped) … and although there are targeted missile attacks and the air-raid sirens do go off, it is still 750kms from the front line. Clearly Zaporizhia and Kharkiv are much closer, 150/200kms, and have seen much more fighting … but then the need there is even more profound. As I said above … everyone needs to be comfortable with what they choose and the whole thing may not be for you at all. And it’s definitely emotional – don’t underestimate that either. If you’re interested then please drop me a personal WhatsApp. It is very special, that I can promise you.

Lviv in full swing

Donate – Pizzas are donated FOC by two super sponsors (amazing) but they still need to be shipped and distributed, the vans need to be fuelled and maintained and the volunteers need to be housed and fed so they have a constant need for fundraising … if you can, then any and all funds are gratefully received … https://siobhanstrust.uk

Sponsor – The Vans have been purchased by amazing super supporters … Sedbergh School community, Artemis Fund Managers and St James’ Place have each sponsored the purchase and fitting out of a full vehicle … do you know anyone who might be up for that? If so, speak to me.

Spread the word – the amazing fundraising you guys did for Eden Aid all came from doing just that, sharing what’s going on with your own, like minded, contacts … people who care about what is going on out there and want to help. So when I get home tomorrow I’ll put these ramblings and pictures into an email and send you a copy. It would mean an awful lot to me, and to the Siobhan’s Trust, if you would share this with your own contacts.

If you got this far … Thanks for bearing with me

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