DONATIONS to a Cork group bringing humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees on the Ukrainian-Polish border more than doubled in the day before their convoy departed from Ireland.
Volunteers from Cork Humanitarian Aid Ireland, a joint charitable initiative by members of Cork City Missing Persons Search and Recovery (CCMPSAR) and Cork Penny Dinners, left Cork for Poland today, having seen donations more than double in their last full day in Ireland.
Chris O’Donovan, treasurer of CCMPSAR, toldvolunteers had been heartened and astonished by the generosity of everyone who contributed.
“By Sunday evening we had raised €12,000 and received 12 tonnes of humanitarian aid, and we thought that was amazing, but yesterday’s response more than doubled that amount.
“With at least €25,000 raised, and over 25 tonnes of aid donated, we’re bringing five vans on the ferry to Cherbourg on this trip and driving across Europe to the Ukrainian border in Poland, but we have received enough to bring another ten vans out,” Mr O’Donovan said.
“At the moment, we’re thinking that we will take a break of maybe a week when we get home, and then we’ll probably head back out again.
“We have seen the worst of humanity in what Vladimir Putin is doing to the people of Ukraine, and in the generosity of people in Cork who want to do their bit to help people in trouble we’re seeing the best of humanity.” Caitriona Twomey, co-ordinator of Cork Penny Dinners, who is travelling with the convoy to Poland in a personal capacity, said the group’s current plan was to arrive at Cherbourg on Wednesday afternoon and then drive cross-country, hopefully arriving at the Ukrainian-Polish border in the early hours of Friday morning.
“Father Gerry O’Connor in Blackrock has been speaking with his fellow Redemptorist priests in Ukraine and Poland, and we will meet some of them on the border, so they will can get the humanitarian aid to the people who need it most.
“Because the people of Cork have been so generous in their support, we will probably have to come out here again, and if we do, so be it,” Ms Twomey said.
Donations can still be made on the CCMPSAR or Penny Dinners Facebook pages.
The sun was shining on Kennedy Quay but there was ice on the wind on Tuesday afternoon as the convoy headed out into the east.
Family and friends waved five fully laden vans off as ten volunteers from Cork Humanitarian Aid Ireland - and one reporter from The Echo - headed for the ferry at Rosslaire, and on then to Cherbourg, and across France, Belgium, Germany and Poland for the Ukrainian border.
Less than a week ago, members of Cork City Missing Persons Search and Recovery (CCMPSAR) and Cork Penny Dinners launched an appeal for donations of cash, thermal clothing, medical supplies and non-perishable food and the people of Cork responded in kind.
By Sunday evening, over €12,000 had been raised, and 12 tonnes of humanitarian aid had been donated, but on Monday volunteers were overwhelmed by an influx of donations which more than doubled the amount already raised. Now, as the convoy departs for Poland, there is already a plan in place to make at least one more journey.
Chris O’Donovan, treasurer of CCMPSAR, told me the generosity of the people of Cork had been nothing short of inspiring.
“Looking at all the donations, over €25,000 and 25 tonnes plus of humanitarian aid, this is all down to those who contributed in any way, all of those who packed boxes and loaded vans, and the Catholic Bishop, Bishop Fintan, who gave us the use of the visitor centre at the North Cathedral for a drop-off point, and the Church of Ireland Bishop, Bishop Paul, who paid for the ferry to get our vans to Cherbourg,” he said.
On Monday night, as we lumped boxes up the steps of the North Cathedral visitor centre and into vans, Chris asked me to do him one favour. “Can you make sure the volunteers are mentioned in? They’re the machine. They’re the reason we’re able to get on the road, the same as the people who donated are the reason we have something to take on the road.
“Sorting donations into boxes, non-stop, no let up for days on end, and they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts.” He thanked his wife Ber – “That poor woman is a saint to put up with me” – and his daughter Emma and son Robert, before launching into a list of volunteers, with the cagey proviso that if he left anyone out it would be because they would be too modest to want a mention.
“We’ve seen the worst of humanity in what Vladimir Putin is doing to the people of Ukraine, and in the generosity of people in Cork who want to do their bit to help people in trouble we’re seeing the best of humanity.” At the time of writing, the convoy is making its way to Rosslaire. It’s an honour to be travelling with the volunteers.