A man who “probably hadn’t fundraised since primary school” is in the process of organising his second trip in two months to deliver aid to Ukraine.
Anthony Hughes, from Warrenpoint, was so moved by the plight of people in the besieged country that he decided to take action.
The 32-year-old made the first trip to the east of the country at the end of February, handing over a 4×4 pick-up truck, diesel generator as well as various other items including medical supplies.
The trip was made possible after Anthony, who works in IT, set up a fundraising page, Drive for Ukraine NI, raising more than £6,000 to buy the truck and generator.
He plans to make a second trip in April, delivering a similar load to volunteers he was introduced to via a charity.
He said: “The idea came about last year. I was donating money to different organisations and I was trying to see how I could have a bigger impact myself. I just felt compelled to help.
“Ever since I was a teenager I was interested in cars and I thought I could get hold of a decent pick-up and service it and get it ready to go over.”
Anthony made the trip with a Polish man, who had been fundraising for medical supplies, and they were able to load everything into the pick-up.
The trip to the capital Kyiv and the second biggest city, Kharkiv, took about a week-and-a-half, with Anthony funding his own travel and living expenses, to ensure that all money raised goes directly to the people of Ukraine.
Despite the dangers, Anthony said he was not put off: “There were a couple of times when the air raid sirens were going off, particularly in Kharkiv, which is further east, but I just kept myself busy.
“The people there are doing their best to repair and rebuild but Kiev in particular gets struck very regularly. And in Kharkiv itself, two days after I left, the city centre got stuck by missiles again.
“It was fascinating to talk to people there. They have no choice except to get on as best they can – going to work, putting food on the table. Everyone I spoke to was incredibly grateful for all the support. They are a very strong people.”
It was during his return home – a 36-hour train journey to the airport – that Anthony decided he was going to make a second trip.
He is hoping to raise another £6,000 and is already almost half way to that goal.
He added: “The main thing is another pick-up because the roads are so bad after all the bombing. And the ambulances got destroyed very early on so the trucks are used for evacuations.
“The dream would be to have a trailer with four or five 4x4s on it.
“In the grand scheme of things, a couple of generators and medical supplies and 4X4s aren’t much, but if they can use that for a month to evacuate a couple of dozen people, and if everyone was doing the same, it would have a huge impact in saving lives.”
Any individuals or businesses wishing to find out more, or help in any way, should contact Anthony by email at email@example.com or via the Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/
The link to his GoFundMe page is https://gofund.me/3530f867