- Joe Sims
Hello wonderful people,
When we started this group we had no idea whether people would join or whether it would last beyond a year and here we are all these years later still going strong and with other groups all of ver the UK inspired by you and your unswerving kindness and generosity.
We never take that for granted and we feel very honoured to know you all.
This week’s nomination comes from Janet who recognised some of our spirit in the incredible efforts of some British volunteers who have been going to incredible lengths to support those in Ukraine who suddenly find their lives turned upside down in so many ways.
We wish Rich and his team all the best in their efforts and hope that our £500 can bring some relief from the horrors being experienced over there.
Take care of yourselves and thank you all, as always, for allowing us to help others.
Here is Janet’s nomination and a report from the group in Ukraine.
Dear 500 Reasons
A friend of mine, Emily, recently sent me an email from her son, Richard, who is doing amazing work out in Ukraine with refugees; work that reminds me of the kind of things you all do at 500 Reasons where you just get on with doing what needs to be done to help other individuals get on with doing what they need to do to make the world a better place HERE & NOW!
Here is her email to me……
My son has just come back form a humanitarian trip to Poland/Ukraine and I thought his account might be of interest to you.
Dispatches – The Arch Angel
With pale, weary faces, children sit and stare blankly at the semi-ordered chaos unfolding in front of them. In one direction tents, blankets, and a soup kitchen. In another, endless queues to sign forms, and receive clothes. There are almost as many high-vis clad volunteers, as there are boxes piled high, and the conversation all around them is focused on obtaining SIM cards, and getting a place on the next bus, or train that pulls in. The children don’t complain. This part is easy, compared to the anguish of the seemingly impossible scenes they have witnessed recently; all inevitably tinged with the stench of death.
Of course, they’re all wondering what will happen next. There’s little else to do during these squandered hours spent, trying to cross the border, but they look and accept their new reality. How incomprehensible this may seem to the petulant, privileged West; with their strong opinions on what NATO should and shouldn’t do from the safety of their own homes. The truth is Western lives have remained uninterrupted thanks to the sacrifices the people of Ukraine have made and seemingly, continue to make; alone.
I have spent the last three weeks driving 2800 miles to deliver aid, and support a small team of brilliant, yet humble, ex-services guys in establishing medical teams further into Ukraine. What has become apparent is that the Ukranian refugee who really needs our help is not the savvy Linkedin professional with a wider European network to offer support; although their plight is not to be dismissed. But rather it is their far- eastern cousins, who face much greater challenges.
Over 12 million citizens have been displaced in the far eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine; many of whom had never previously travelled beyond their hometown, let alone to Poland or further. Just 15 miles into Poland, I’d dashed across a busy road and was stopped by a group of 5 eastern Ukrainians who used Google Translate to ask if it was ‘ok to cross here.’ They have experienced horrors we can’t imagine, and now they must they grapple with this unexpected culture shock. Following this, the UK’s opaque labyrinth of a visa system seems to be a needlessly high hurdle to safety; especially after so many extraordinary barriers.
During my time as a volunteer here, we have delivered supplies to medical centres, transported injured soldiers, and even the team saved a life. With the help of a newfound friend, we assisted an Italian charity in the evacuation of 20 refugees to Italy. To help in the most efficient way I can, I juggle three phones negotiating a labyrinth of countless Whatsapp and Signal groups, to get supplies, people and transport from A-B. All of this is easy compared to beginning a UK visa application. This needs to change.
Helping a refugee doesn’t mean I have to share the same suffering, and I hope the numerous selfless people I met from all over Europe, America, Canada and Israel will feel the same. I have relished every moment of meeting every single volunteer who cares with a passion, but many told me they feel the same way; guilty for still having a bed to sleep safely in at night after a perfectly cooked meal. Our moral consciences drives us on to do more.
Refugees are not numbers in the corner of a news broadcast. They are individuals, like you or I, who have experienced atrocities that just a few months ago were unthinkable. They have watched family and friends suffer and die. Their sacrifice has allowed the West to remain free from violence; so that we may not suffer the same fate, and for that we should be displaying our gratitude copiously. The UK effort has been commendable, but ‘we’ must now recognise and embrace how we started out 6 weeks ago. What we have achieved needs to rapidly evolve into a more joined up, and intelligent approach.
Politics and local bureaucracy, both in Poland, and Ukraine, coupled with sinister corruption and crime, stifles the ability of the army of volunteers, who take incredible risks with their safety inside Ukraine. And with more arriving each day, it’s essential that we now examine our efforts, with a view to streamlining our processes and get help to more people, faster.
From my vantage point; crisscrossing Lviv to Przemysl, this small town has endured the brunt of the effort. The Polish people are to be saluted, in the main, as their unconditional effort, (save for the Politics) is admirable, as is their free mechanic works! Poland’s border towns have everything we have in the UK and can boast a better road network, so our willing army of van drivers need not give up that noble journey, but instead carry more genuinely critical items which can’t be sourced locally. A glut of aid sits in the west of Ukraine, and so bypassing Lviv and beyond, now becomes our next shared resolve.
Ukrainia is a deeply proud people. There is much the West can learn from them right now. The time of volunteers and remote support groups would be best spent listening, and responding, in order to provide them with relevant medical equipment, as well as showing them how to use it, rather than telling them what we think is best in their situation.
Their plight has years to run, so there’s no excuse for hasty, ill-conceived plans. We can afford the time to pause and recalibrate the way we support them. Raising more money is centre stage and you should now badger the trustees, directors, and associates of every bloated charity, religious organisation, and successful well-minded company with whom you are affiliated.
Top of the shopping list should be second-hand ambulances £8,000, paramedic cars £10,000, and minibuses £6,000. Why? The paramedics, firefighters, and ex police officers, who are volunteering in support of Ukraine need the right equipment to provide purposeful aid. We need to transport the injured, orphans, the infirm, and the elderly. As the compass of conflict shifts, we need much more than foil blankets, and medicine. The actual list of impactful, significant resources required is endless, as should be our commitment to continue to protect the West’s freedom.
Ukraine’s Angels; volunteers from every walk of life are doing their bit; so don’t let a privileged desire to turn the other cheek stop you from doing yours. When we collaborate to improve our efforts, put simply, we get more done. Few refused to clap for the NHS during the pandemic, so let’s galvanise that sentiment once again, and ensure as many people as possible make an effort for the victims of the war in Ukraine. Don’t be one of the few who refuses to show gratitude for Ukraine’s stance; a stance that is protecting our freedom. Pester your MPs for improved logistical and visa efficiency. Ask community leaders to help raise more donations.
To the ‘child of Chernobyl’ and so many like you; we will strive to do more.
I return to Lviv 26th April & will pen a further update in mid-May / Rich Fenech UkraineAidRF@gmail.com 11.04.22