Yorkshire volunteers to drive lorries full of supplies and an ambulance to war-torn Ukraine
Yorkshire Aid Convoy are loading the heavy goods vehicles with food, medical equipment, mattresses, sanitary products and basic necessities, before they set off on the 3,000 mile round trip from Wetherby on Thursday.
The 22 volunteers will make their way through seven countries, before handing the supplies over to charities based in Ukraine, which has been devastated by war since Vladimir Putin’s forces launched a full-scale invasion last year.
They will also drop off an ambulance that was recently used by Yorkshire Ambulance Service, when they travel to the country for the fourth time since war broke out.
Gary Dooley has been gathering supplies with his fellow trustees and founder Mark Murphy, and planning the trip.
The marketing agency director said: “When the war started a year ago, quite a lot of people got in touch with us, because they’d seen that we've been to Ukraine before.
“We decided that we couldn’t just sit here and watch it happen.
"We do this in our spare time and we’re all unpaid volunteers, but we just make it happen and keep the wheels rolling.”
He added: “We’ve got a lot of food, first aid and medical equipment, mattresses and tents.
"As a big part of our load, we’ve also got 1,000 refurbished PCs that are going to be used in the education system, in eastern Ukraine, to try and get schools back up and running in the reclaimed territories.
“The Ukrainian charities make sure that it all gets to all the places where it's needed most."
Jonathan Turner, Chief Executive of Bayford Group, paid for the ambulance and volunteered to join the convoy along with his son 22-year-old Freddie.
“The fact that this is a group of local volunteers who are committed to making a difference and have the guts and determination to personally gather the right kind of help, and then deliver it to exactly where it’s needed, on an on-going basis shows remarkable passion and commitment,” he said.
The Yorkshire Aid Convoy was set up in 2002 and the group has made dozens of trips to countries such as Romania and Ukraine, to provide humanitarian aid.
Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian forces since the invasion was launched in February last year and estimates on the casualty figures vary.
The Ministry of Defence cently claimed around 40,000 to 60,000 Russian troops have died and Vladimir putin’s forces “continues to suffer extremely heavy casualties”.
Thousands of Ukrainian troops are also believed to have died in the fighting and the UN human rights office said there were more than 8,000 civilian deaths confirmed by mid-February.
Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said civilians have been killed “in their homes and while simply trying to meet their essential needs, such as collecting water and buying food”.