FROME man Rupert Wenn shared his “humbling” journey to help out at a Ukrainian refugee center in Poland.
In two days, Rupert traveled over 1,000 miles to Łodź in Poland. He traveled alone in his Ford S-MAX, which he describes as “tardis-like”, filled with supplies collected by Wiltshire Donations – a group of volunteers from across the region, including Frome.
“Seeing what was happening on the news with the refugee crisis and the war, it seemed to me such a sad and hopeless situation,” Rupert said speaking to of time. “I donated a reasonable amount of money to the British Red Cross appeal, but wanted to do more, something more tangible.”
Rupert didn’t have to look far to find the inspiration he was looking for on how he could help more. “I read a story in of time (number 602) on volunteer driver, Pete Sanders, who also helped deliver aid collected by Wiltshire Donations to Poland,” Rupert said. “I thought it was a perfect opportunity to do something tangible and feel that I was helping as best I could.”
With a week off already booked in April, Rupert contacted the volunteer organization to offer his services. Quickly put to work, he set off on a trip on Saturday 16 April and arrived the following day at the refugee center in Łodź in the evening.
“The volunteers were super happy with the donations,” Rupert said of his arrival in Poland, “they couldn’t believe I had just filled up my car and just driven there, and that could hold so many things! They were very welcoming, it was very humbling actually.
“The manager showed me around the rescue center and explained to me what they were doing there. As it was Easter Sunday, he gave me a traditional Polish Easter soup, called Zurek – which was delicious!
“The rescue center is in what would normally be the cultural center of the city – a large municipal building. What is normally the main theatre, was the main processing area, which included a registration area, which helps advise them and find them more permanent accommodation, and a full dining room so that those arriving can have a hot meal. They have also set up a children’s play area – so children who arrive quite traumatized can have some normality and play with other children. And then they have all the donations – like the ones I brought – set up so people can get food, toiletries, sanitary ware, toys for kids, sleeping bags, things they might need – especially those who arrive with nothing.
“What used to be the balcony seating area in the theater – and three more floors above – has been converted into dormitories/bedrooms – so the refugees have a safe place to sleep for a few nights before moving on to family home or to travel further. in Europe.
“Everything is run by volunteers – Polish and Ukrainian residents – and it’s a great setup, running 24/7. They work in rotation. There is a constant flow of refugees arriving. It was incredibly impressive. What struck me was that the center is run entirely by volunteers, which is what makes it so impressive – the government didn’t organize it.
“What they have done is quite impressive and commendable. It almost left me speechless. I just looked around and thought “wow”.
To help pay for travel costs such as fuel, road tolls and ferry rides, Rupert set up an online fundraising page with a goal of £675, which he said would cover half the cost travel costs – the other half of the travel costs, plus all accommodation and food costs, came out of his pocket.
However, generous friends and family helped reach his fundraising goal, donating over £1,400 – a surplus of £725, which will be donated to Wiltshire Donations to help fund further trips to Poland .
Rupert said: ‘Wiltshire Dons have a minibus which takes aid to Poland – they also help transport refugees with visas to the UK – I think it costs them around £2,000 each way – return. This money will be used for that. »
There’s still time to donate to Rupert’s fundraiser, which will help fund Wiltshire Donations’ additional trips to Poland. To donate, visit the website: www.gofundme.com/f/ukrainian-humanitarian-aid-road-trip