Cheddar man with van takes aid to Ukraine
- Credit: Jerry Winchester
A Cheddar retiree has driven nearly 3,000 miles across Europe to deliver aid to refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Jerry Winchester and local tradesman Andy Derrick worked closely with Ukraine Aid - UK2KRK, a small charity in Weston, and local partners in Poland, Slavic Mission in Europe, the adventurous pair have returned from delivering a van-load of medical supplies, food, water, and toiletries to the Polish-Ukraine border.
Jerry, age 68, said watching news of the war in Ukraine and the devastating impact it was having on people living there made it impossible for him to do nothing.
He said: "I think lots of people in the Cheddar Valley feel the same way but have to work, or have family commitments that mean they can't volunteer. Being retired meant I could help deliver the aid when it was needed.
"Many of the refugees have left their homes in Ukraine with just the clothes they are wearing. I just wanted to do something practical to help - and quickly."
The aid mission was only possible thanks to donations from the local community. For a while the trip was in jeopardy when Jerry was unable to find a suitable vehicle.
Cheddar tradesman Andy Derrick came to the rescue, swapping his handyman service to provide humanitarian aid, volunteering as co-driver and donating the use of his work van.
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Jerry and Andy delivered the aid to a large storage depot in Krakow and then went on to a disused Tesco supermarket complex that is being used to shelter refugees, distribute the donations as well as provide emergency shelter to those right on the border with Ukraine.
Whilst they were approached by a family of eight Ukrainians with two dogs asking for transport to Stuttgart. Sadly they were unable to help because of the very serious people trafficking situation that has caused the police to strictly enforce a no people in the back of vans policy.
Back less than a week, Jerry is already planning his next mission.
He added: "It has been a privilege to be able to deliver the aid to Ukraine and know that the donated medicine, food, water, and even sweets for the children as they stand for hours in long queues will get to the people who need it most.
"But I now know, as well as aid, we need to be able to physically transport refugees to a place of safety."
Some days there are thousands of refugees arriving at the Polish border and there is a shortage of vehicles to drive them to safety.
Jerry's plan is to track down an old but roadworthy people-carrier and go back as soon as possible with more aid and then join the rescue efforts taking families to homes in Poland and Germany.
The whole situation is very fluid and the situation on the ground is constantly changing so in the event that Jerry is unable to make the journey at the last minute any and all funds raised will be donated to Ukraine Aid.
To donate, log on to www.gofundme.com/cheddar-man-with-van-takes-aid-to-ukraine