COACHLOADS of essential goods are on their way to Ukraine thanks to the ‘overwhelming’ generosity of North-East businesses and communities.
A double-decker bus known as ‘Big Blue’ and a 48-seater Generation Travel coach are setting off today (Friday, April 8) to take supplies to Ukrainian people fleeing the Russian invasion.
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It will be the second trip for Teesside car dealers Chris and Shaun Maddren and their friends who have already made one journey to the war-torn country to deliver goods and transport refugees to processing centers.
Today they will be joined by a team from Stokesley-based Generation Travel who will board a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam before driving around 20-hours to Poland.
Dave Broomfield will be driving the Generation Travel coach and said the amount of support for the Ukrainian appeal in the local area has been fantastic.
He said: “People haven’t stopped coming in and dropping things off, it’s been amazing.
“I think the message I have heard the most when people are dropping off bags is that they knew they wanted to do something, but they didn’t know how to go about it so they’ve really supported this appeal.”
Dave said there have been some particularly touching donations including hand-knitted baby bonnets and Tupperware boxes of essential items packaged up and labeled for the appropriate age of the intended recipient.
Rachel Drew, who runs Generation Travel with her husband Gary who is going on the trip, said: “We want to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported us.
“It has been overwhelming and without them this wouldn’t be possible.”
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The coaches will meet up today with the Maddren’s team and ‘Big Blue’ in Billingham before traveling to the Polish city of Chelm near the border with Ukraine.
The goods will be distributed to refugees in need and the after the drivers have adequate rested, they will transport women, children and pets to processing centers in Germany where they will await resettlement.
Dave, who said he has thought about barely anything else but the trip recently, explained why he was so keen to help the Ukrainian people.
He said: “I think we’ve all been touched by what we’ve seen on the news.
“These people are leaving with nothing; there was a lady on the coach on the last trip who was carrying her cat and that was literally all she had in the world – the clothes on her back and her pet cat.
“These are people who have just gone out to work and come home to find their streets obliterated.”
He added: “I feel a bit overwhelmed with the support we’ve had, I think I’ll be a bit of an emotional wreck when it comes to the point where we’re getting people on board – I’ve got a box of man-sized tissues by the driver’s seat!”
The venture has been supported by many local businesses and residents who, along with goods donations, have also raised around £20,000 to help fund the mission.
Next week, two coaches from Gardiners NMC in Morpeth will also be traveling across to the Poland laden with supplies.
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