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Frome local drives to Poland to deliver donations for Ukrainian refugees

FROME man, Rupert Wenn, has shared his ‘humbling’ journey to deliver aid to a Ukrainian refugee relief centre in Poland. 

Rupert Wenn’s in Poland to deliver aid.

Across two days, Rupert travelled over 1,000 miles to Łodź in Poland. He travelled alone in his Ford S-MAX, which he describes as ‘tardis-like’, packed full of supplies collected by Wiltshire Donations – a group of volunteers from across the local area, including Frome. 

“Seeing what was happening on the news with the refugee crisis and the war, it seemed such a sad and desperate situation to me,” said Rupert speaking to Frome Times. “I donated a reasonable sum of money to the British Red Cross appeal, but I wanted to do more, something more tangible.” 

Rupert didn’t have far to go to find the inspiration he was seeking about how he could help further.  “I read a story in the Frome Times (issue 602) about volunteer driver, Pete Sanders, who also helped deliver aid collected by Wiltshire Donations to Poland,” said Rupert. “I thought it was an ideal opportunity to do something tangible and feel like I was helping as best I could.” 

With a week’s leave from work already booked in April, Rupert contacted the volunteer organisation to offer his services. He was quickly put to work, setting off on his trip on Saturday 16th April, arriving the next day at the refugee relief centre in Łodź in the evening. 

“The volunteers were super pleased with the donations,” said Rupert about his arrival in Poland, “they couldn’t quite believe that I had just filled my car up and driven over, and that it could fit so much in it! They were very welcoming, it was very humbling actually.  

“The person in charge there showed me around the relief centre and explained what they were doing there. As it was Easter Sunday, he gave me some traditional Polish Easter soup, called Zurek – which was delicious! 

“The relief centre is in what would normally be the city’s cultural centre – a great big municipal building. What is normally the main theatre, was the main processing area, which included a registration area, which helps with advice and finding them more permanent accommodation, and a whole dining area so people arriving can have a hot meal. They also have a children’s play area set up – so children arriving who are quite traumatised can have a bit of normality and play with other kids. And then they have all the donations – such as the ones I brought over – set up so people can get food, toiletries, sanitary items, toys for the kids, sleeping bags, things they might need – especially those that arrive with nothing. 

“What was the balcony seating area in the theatre – and three more floors above that – has been converted into dormitory/sleeping areas – so refugees have somewhere safe to sleep for a few nights before moving on to a host family, or travelling further on into Europe. 

“It’s all run by volunteers – both Polish and Ukrainian residents – and it’s a great set up, running 24/7. They operate in shifts. There is a constant stream of refugees arriving. It was incredibly impressive. What struck me is that the centre is run entirely by volunteers, which makes it so impressive – the government hasn’t organised it.  

“What they have done is utterly impressive and commendable. It almost left me speechless. I just looked around and thought, ‘wow’.” 

To help pay for travel costs such as fuel, road tolls and ferry trips, Rupert organised an online fundraising page with a target of £675, which he estimated would cover half of the travel costs – the other half of the travel costs, plus all accommodation and food costs, came out of his own pocket. 

However, generous friends and family helped smash his fundraising target, donating over £1,400 – an excess of £725, which will be donated to Wiltshire Donations to help fund other trips to Poland. 

Rupert said, “Wiltshire Donations have a minibus taking aid across to Poland – it also helps transport refugees with visas across to the UK – I think it costs them around £2,000 per roundtrip. This money will go towards that.” 

There is still time to donate to Rupert’s fundraiser, which will help fund Wiltshire Donations’ additional trips to Poland. To donate, visit the website: www.gofundme.com/f/ukrainian-humanitarian-aid-road-trip  

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