‘The look on the faces of the kids was unforgettable and magical’: Man’s humanitarian mission to Ukraine delivering help to refugees

A man from Oldham has led a humanitarian mission to Ukraine made up of horse boxes, delivering aid to refugee centres along the border. The Ukraine Equestrian Relief team arrived in Poland on Saturday May 7, having set off in a convoy the previous Thursday.

The team is led by Stephen Barnes, 44, from Oldham, who has been accompanied by volunteers who drive the horseboxes and students from Salford University. This is the second convey of essential supplies Stephen and his team have taken to the border.

Stephen, a business owner, said: “What started with one truck has now grown to us registering as a charity and planning more trips. They told us it is the biggest supply of aid they have received so far.

Read more:Girl, 9, so traumatised by war she didn’t speak for almost five weeks now living in Greater Manchester

“I’ve got a business to run here in the UK, but this is important, and I enjoy helping where I can.”

Last month the team took a fleet of horse boxes filled with donations to two main refugee camps. This time, the convoy will visit three refugee centres and deliver medical supplies to a charity taking ambulances across the border into Ukraine.

A child plays with bubbles at a refugee centre in Chelm
A child plays with bubbles at a refugee centre in Chelm

The horse boxes are stocked full of essential supplies, with donations ranging from hand-knitted children’s teddies to 26,000 paper cups for soup and hot drinks, something the team discovered was an essential on their previous aid mission. Once the donations from the UK are all handed out, the horse box convoy will refill at local supermarkets and continue to hand out supplies.

Ben Smith, a farrier who is travelling with the convoy, said: “I’ve seen how much more help is needed and already the refugee situation is dropping out the news. We need to keep their presence in the public eye.

“What we did last time made a massive difference, and hopefully we can keep making a difference.”

The team are currently travelling across Poland, having just visited two refugee centres in Chelm.

The convoy visited a women and children’s centre, housed in an old school, on Monday May 9. The families have been living there for more than two months with little space or supplies.

The team load up the horseboxes with supplies
The team load up the horseboxes with supplies

The building itself is reaching capacity, and many are sleeping in hallways on sun loungers.

At this location, the team delivered toys, sweets and colouring books for the children. Stephen Baldwin, one of the drivers on the trip said: “The look on the faces of the kids was unforgettable and magical.

“Clearly it was the first time that a little bit of happiness has been spread in a place where it has clearly been in short supply. Even as a retired firefighter, having saved people’s lives at incidents etc this stands as the most rewarding experience I have felt.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be doing this in Europe in 2022.”

The convoy’s trip is being shared on social media and can be followed on Instagram by clicking here .

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