Holdsworth Financial Managing Director Simon Holdsworth shares his frontline experiences in Ukraine and explains why the mortgage industry’s Ukraine Aid fundraiser will be doing crucial work in the country.
I had to go on vacation with my girlfriend to cross the
United States, but when we saw the crisis developing in Ukraine, we called it all off and headed to the Ukraine-Poland border.
The experience was life changing. With the help and support of customers, business contacts and friends, we were able to raise around £40,000, 100% of which was deployed directly to those in need. A client donated the use of a nine-seater minibus when donated supplies led to the need for a vehicle larger than my own car.
Before departure, we contacted hospitals and organizations in Ukraine and the requested medical supplies and equipment were then obtained.
Caxton FX, the currency card and international payments specialist, has also supported our efforts by waiving all fees and charges while collecting donations from their own customers via a blog chronicling the trip.
The support we had was humbling and shows how eager people are to support the victims of this crisis. This has enabled us to provide aid in a variety of ways, from providing medical equipment, medicine, food and power banks to practical support for people seeking shelter in Poland. My partner, Alice, was a paramilitary medical volunteer in Italy for many years and her knowledge enabled us to ensure that the help we received was appropriate to the needs on the ground.
Once at the border, we saw that much of the work was done by smaller NGOs and volunteer groups around the world. We saw that many of the biggest names weren’t there or weren’t active.
One particular group, Paracrew Norway, was particularly notable for its ability to get essential aid to trouble spots by using a network of volunteer drivers to get supplies directly from the hands of donors to the hands of those in need.
The trip grew from a two-week plan to a full month at the border crossing point in Medyka, Poland, the busiest crossing point for refugees from Ukraine into Poland.
Working directly with refugees has left an indelible mark. We supported a group of women and children who were in temporary accommodation and sleeping on the floor of a school. We took them to stores to buy food and supplies – they had all been forced to leave their lives behind. A 15-year-old boy only had the shoes he escaped with. One of the women had been sexually assaulted while fleeing the war, another had walked so far, her shoes had collapsed on her feet.
We replaced worn-out shoes and clothes and saw smiles return to faces that had previously been traumatized. It just showed how even a modest sum can change a life.
Another time I saw a group of four Ukrainians who looked a bit lost and went to offer their support. The group consisted of an elderly couple, a boy and a young woman; the boy looked to be around 16 and the woman in her early twenties. They were grandparents and grandchildren, and they were saying goodbye to the border. They all cried and hugged before the grandparents flew back to Ukraine, leaving the grandchildren to join the refugees seeking refuge in Poland. They didn’t know if they would ever see each other again.
Having seen what is happening with my own eyes, I am eager to support Ukraine Aid June 30 at the Lafayette Concert Auditorium in Kings Cross.
I’m so impressed with what Mortgageforce’s Kevin Duffy and our industry are doing with this event – it’s been great to see how the personalities and companies in the mortgage industry come together to help in a crisis situation.
If we all come together and meet or exceed the fundraising goal, I know it will benefit thousands of lives. The contacts we have made over the past month will help ensure that the money raised goes directly to where it is most needed. »
To learn more about event sponsorship opportunities, interested parties should contact Michelle Barraclough at [email protected]
For more details on Paracrew’s work, visit www.paracrew.org