Connect Aid (CA) has taken a leading role in helping the victims of the crisis in Eastern Europe since the conflict began in February.
Formed in 2015, the Telford-based NGO repurposes food, medicines and other vital supplies donated by the public and companies around the country and then sorts, packs, and transports them across Europe to Ukraine.
As the operation grew, they decided to seek logistic support and turned to RE:ACT, a disaster response charity.
RE:ACT’s volunteers, made up of military veterans, former “Blue Light” and other humanitarian responders, agreed to help and currently there are 17 of them working alongside Connect Aid staff in Telford and Warrington in Cheshire where CA has a warehouse.
Connect Aid’s Chief Executive, Lea Beven, says the link with RE:ACT and other organisations has been essential.
“That is why we’re called Connect Aid. We partner up with other organisations so that we can move aid faster and more effectively and efficiently. Team work makes the dream work,” explained Lea.
Harry Starkey, RE:ACT’s West Midlands Regional Representative, praised Connect Aid’s work and explained how his organisation was contacted when donations from a generous public and corporate sector began to “flood in.”
He said: “The scale of Connect Aid’s task dramatically escalated, and it was putting increased pressure on their operations. One of RE:ACT’s core roles is what we call ‘last mile logistics’. In other words, working across the supply chain to get what is needed, to where it is needed, when it is needed.”
Mr Starkey said he put out a “rallying call” to their volunteers within a 60-mile radius of Warrington and 20 people stepped forward immediately to help move donations between CA’s Shropshire shops and the warehouse in Warrington, where they also help to sort and stack aid onto pallets and then onto lorries for transportation to Poland.
The partnership with RE:ACT has produced many extra benefits too.
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool had donated 560 kilos of medical aid to the Ukraine Medical Association of Great Britain.
However, the UMAGB had no one to pick it up.
One of Connect Aid’s RE:ACT volunteers agreed to collect it and even paid for the van hire himself to ensure there were no further delays.
The Alder Hey donation, which includes vital medicines and incubators for sick children, will now be delivered to the Ivano-Frankivsk District Hospital in Western Ukraine.
Another of the RE:ACT volunteers, Juliet Prince, realised there was a severe shortage of wooden pallets which was causing difficulties in getting aid properly packed ready for transportation to Ukraine.
She mentioned it to her neighbour, Simon Lane, who immediately donated 100 pallets from his pet supply business, ANCOL Pet Products, based in Bloxwich in the West Midlands.
Then Mr Lane volunteered to buy another 100 pallets and because he had seen an item on the television news about stranded and stray pets in the conflict zone, he donated beds, leads and collars.
He also spoke to other businesses and coordinated donations of veterinary products from www.johnson-vet.com and food from Inspired Pet Nutrition.
Connect Aid says the pet supplies will be squeezed onto one of the transports once all human aid had been dealt with.