AS volunteers return from a war zone, in Cork it remains business as usual for those who look after people in need of a helping hand whether at home or abroad.
Six volunteers from Cork Penny Dinners returned back to the charity’s Little Hanover St headquarters on Wednesday evening, exhausted from a long but rewarding humanitarian mission to the Polish-Ukrainian border region.
The group had set out from Cork eight days earlier, slightly delayed when Penny Dinners co-ordinator Caitriona Twomey had caught her hand in a van door. The accident had caused painful bruising which the tireless volunteer bore without complaint throughout her visit to the Ukrainian border.
It was the third such mission she had undertaken with Penny Dinners volunteers, all acting in a personal capacity, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of this year, and Ms Twomey described this latest undertaking as their most beneficial yet.
“We had the privilege of helping people in Ukraine, and of working with Polish people on the ground, and we were able to get over 80 tonnes of humanitarian aid directly to the people who need it most,” Ms Twomey told The Echo.
“One refugee centre we visited was a shopping mall where instead of shops you had mattresses on the ground, and for the people living there, their kitchens and living rooms were the open air of the car park.”
Ms Twomey said the volunteers had only been able to carry out their mission with the help and support of the people of Cork, and of all who donated to their appeal.
She added that the volunteers had done “Trojan” work in difficult circumstances, not least because they were loading and unloading vans laden with aid in temperatures of up to 36C.
“Poland was going through a heatwave, and Tomas, Conal, Dave, Kieran, and Lesley worked extremely hard in very tough conditions, and they never complained,” she said.
Ms Twomey added that they are also looking ahead to planned future missions to the border region, saying: “Politically, as well, we made great contacts in City Hall in Kraków, including Mayor Majchrowski, and in Kyiv, we spoke with people in Mayor Klitschko’s office, and Borodyanka, we spoke with Mayor Šimašius’s people.”
The volunteers got back to Cork on Wednesday evening, tired but happy to be home, and glad to have completed the job.
- Echo reporter Donal O’Keeffe travelled to the region with the Cork Penny Dinners humanitarian mission.