June 2023 Update
The work continues unabated! A huge thank you to our generous donors and the hard work of many and varied UK based volunteers. Also an equally large thank you to the brave men in SE Poland who take our aid to Lviv, and Pastor S and team who take our UK high mileage 4x4 vehicles to be camouflaged, checked and repurposed for the Ukrainian Army.
Our primary focus continues to be family food boxes. These go to Pastor V in Kremenchug – a critical industrial city in central eastern Ukraine which is perceived as safe, although it has been hit by many missiles in the last few months. This city and surrounding area have received a very large number of displaced persons from places on the front line including Kherson and Kharkiv, but have not received much international aid. Our food boxes comprise the same set of identical items as last autumn, but we have now added packets of dried yeast and a “Teddy for Trauma”. The adorable Teds (with their own individual sleeping bag) are knitted for us and donated by an army of people and are greatly appreciated at the other end.
Does a 6.7kg box of food really makes any difference to a refugee family in great need?
The answer is we are told we probably don’t appreciate quite how limited a diet the local government services in Kremenchug are able to provide. The individual items are very, very useful and the whole box is a huge encouragement. We hear stories of how people are moved to tears at the thought of people in the UK caring enough to collect, pack and arrange delivery of a food box to their family. ‘It feels very personal’ one younger mum told our team.
How do the boxes get to Kremenchug, and how are they distributed, and who decides who gets them?
UK volunteers drive them (in their own cars or in the 4x4 vehicles going one way to the front line) to the village which we use as our hub in SE Poland. L arranges Polish drivers from the village to drive the boxes to the border and then the 80km or so to the city of Lviv. This is sometimes in a van we provided at the beginning of the war which we recently augmented with a second-hand minibus because the first van is often in the Far East war zone. At Lviv they are taken to the government “post office “. There our cargo is lifted onto a loading deck where our team stack them in a neat pile on a pallet and wrap them round with polythene to make a secure giant package. Each package of around 90 boxes weighing about 600kg is then loaded by fork lift onto a government articulated lorry and driven to Kremenchug, costing us about £100 per pallet. Pastor V goes with friends to the local “post office” in Kremenchug, breaks down the pallets and loads the boxes into their cars for local storage to await distribution to individuals. Pastor V works with government social services to identify clusters of deserving refugees. He holds a simple church service with guitar led singing, after which children’s literature and Bibles are available for free, and boxes are handed to each family. He also works with displaced gypsies (whom the Russians want to exterminate).
How do the 4x4s get to the Ukrainian Army, why does the Ukrainian army want them and how are they purchased and prepared?
They are bought in the UK mainly from sheep farmers in Wales as they are cheap there and transporting them to a scrap yard is expensive. We are talking 150,000 miles or more, typically 04 plate, cosmetic state is unimportant, but manual diesel 4x4 and MOT sufficient to get them to Dover, cost is around £2250 each. They are filled to the gunnels with family food boxes, teddies and blankets and driven to the village, from where Pastor S and his men come from a town west of Kiev and collect them and drive them to an undisclosed location in the east where they are fully mechanically checked, any repairs carried out, and then are “wrapped” in camouflage.
They are used for transporting troops and material and medical evacuation.
Why are UK ex farm Freelanders, our most popular vehicle, so valuable?
Of course they can negotiate mud and ploughed fields but the key point is they are right hand drive, so the Russian snipers aim for the wrong side of the vehicle, expecting the driver to be sitting on the left.
Finally, we continue to be agile, responding to individual requests. This year so far we have taken to Ukraine more petrol generators and battery packs purchased in E Poland, and for children’s events in Kremenchug: bulk sweets to hand out, concentrated orange squash and plastic cups, 600 hundred novelty torch key rings, 150 packs of 3D stickers for girls, and 150 foam plastic gliders for boys…..as well as the teddies.
Tally of family food boxes that have arrived in Kremenchug or are now en route is 1,466, tally of 4x4s delivered to the Ukrainian Army on the front line or now en route is nine.
Please help us keep on with this work.