The organizer of a massive donation effort for refugees fleeing Ukraine said she was “shocked” by the response.
The Westgate Hotel in downtown Newport has been filled with donations for days this week and more donations are coming in all the time after photographer Kamila Jarczak appealed for help on social media by through her group Women of Newport.
The once-abandoned hotel that became a cornerstone of the town’s Chartist history has become so packed with donations that the 80-strong organizing team has asked generous donors to stop sending in items other than medical equipment.
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Such has been the amount of donations that Newport County football ground, Rodney Parade, has also stepped forward to provide additional storage space for the campaign.
Over a million civilians have now fled Ukraine, including 500,000 to Poland. Kamila, 40, says the donations will go directly to people in Ukraine and to refugees in neighboring countries like Poland, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania.
Speaking to WalesOnline on another extremely busy day at Westgate on Thursday, Kamila said she had no idea how much work she would face when she posted on Facebook earlier this week inviting to donations.
“I come from Poland and I feel a great connection with the Ukrainian people,” she said.
“I am so overwhelmed with the donations we have received which are now over 500. Our posts have reached over 30,000 people. It’s incredible.
“On the second day I started getting messages from people all over South Wales – all the way to Tenby who were willing to help with donations.
“We have logistics companies saying they can come to us with vans full of donations.”
Newport Rising and Westgate project manager David Daniel said he had expected the ballroom to be sufficient when he agreed to offer the building to store donations.
“We were blown away, it’s just amazing,” he said. “There are probably 60 or 70 volunteers in the building at the moment and there are mountains of clothes, toiletries, diapers.
“We realize the amount of work that is going to be needed now, but that’s okay because there are people here who are ready to do it.
“We are grateful to the owners of the building for allowing us to use it in another brilliant way. The history of this place is rooted in the Newport Rising and there are many similarities between this moment in our history and what is happening in Ukraine right now. I am delighted to be able to use the building for such a great cause.
Kamila said the group has managed to connect with people in Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia so they know exactly what is needed now.
“We sent the first van yesterday to Heathrow which is going to Poland and then to Ukraine,” she said.
“We are growing every day. We now have Ukrainian members who help us connect with their people. There is a long way to go.
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