Suffolk men driving to Ukraine with donations following 'amazing' response
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Two Suffolk men will drive the 1,700 miles to Ukraine in a van filled with donations after a plea for goods went viral.
Oliver Horsman, from Trimley St Martin, and his friend Darius Linkus, who also lives in Suffolk, will set off from Felixstowe on Friday evening to embark on the 33-hour journey to just over the border into the war-torn country.
In a separate truck also taking supplies for Ukrainians will be Mr Horsman's sister Liz Spencer and her husband Mike, from Buckinghamshire.
Mr Horsman, 42, posted on Facebook on Monday to say he was going to drive a van to the Romanian/Ukrainian border with a friend to deliver aid to refugees and appealed for donations.
He said the post had "gone viral" and kicked off an "amazing" response; in two-and-a-half days they have received 20 tonnes of items, from blankets and toiletries to nappies and clothes.
The FOLK Café, near Bury St Edmunds and which is run by Mr Horsman's niece Ali Barker, has helped the appeal's reach (its Facebook post was shared more than 300 times) and has become a drop-off point for donations.
Mr Horsman, a father-of-two, said: "My wife is Lithuanian and just watching this happen in a country as beautiful as Ukraine, I had to do something."
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They are hoping to arrive at the border on Monday and charities will then distribute the goods.
They are travelling to Suceava in north-eastern Romanian, but Mr Horsman said some of the route would take them into Ukraine.
"I'm not there to fight," he said. "There are people having to go through so much worse than me just driving a truck in comfort with food. It's nothing in comparison."
Mr Linkus, a Lithuanian national, runs a logistics company between the UK and Ukraine.
Miss Barker, 31, from FOLK Café, said the support had been "second to none" and came from the local community and further afield including Hertfordshire and Peterborough.
"We're just so grateful," she said. "What we are getting from people is how humbling it is to come together like that. From feeling so upset and frustrated there's a sense of community and joy to be able to help them."
The FOLK Café drop-off point, at an Ashtons Legal unit opposite the café, has been a hive of activity as items are delivered and then sorted by volunteers.
Miss Barker said some people had donated and then stayed on for five hours to help at the centre.
Also on board with the effort is A&R Haulage, based at Risby, which will be transporting donated goods to the Ukrainian/Polish border using 44-tonne articulated trucks, and will be making multiple trips.
Roly Hollings, MD of A&R Group, said: "As long as we can fill the trailers, we will take them."
Fundraising for the trucks is being coordinated by Miss Barker's mother Gina Long's charity, GeeWizz, which will also be operating the FOLK Café drop-off point. Details of how to donate will be included on the GeeWizz website.
People wanting to donate or volunteer to help sort donations can go to the Ashtons Legal unit opposite FOLK Café in Fornham St Martin.
Potential volunteers can also contact email@example.com and keep an eye on the charity's social medial channels.
Lots of collection points are taking donations that will then go onto the FOLK Café distribution centre. One is Old School Café in St John's Street, Bury St Edmunds.