LONG READ: Global engagement delivers new van to ABW in Ukraine
It has been an eventful three weeks for Actions Beyond Words. Thanks to the incredible support of our friends and supporters at WDRAC in Japan, who successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign that allowed us to purchase a new van. This was vital as our previous van, ‘Bessie’, suffered a catastrophic turbo failure. The generosity of 84 individuals from Japan raised over 1,000,000 Yen, and with additional direct support, the combined donation amounted to nearly 2,000,000 Yen, equivalent to $14,000 USD over £12,000.
The entire process was condensed and frantic, with finances arriving from Japan on Tuesday, June 6, 2023, ABW began the urgent search for a suitable vehicle that could be made available in time. On Friday, June 9, 2023, Travis and Simon would be collecting the van just in time for Akira’s arrival from Japan. Travis, who had just arrived from an overnight flight from San Francisco, joined Simon and drove from London Heathrow to Nuneaton in Warwickshire to collect the Peugeot Boxer, formally owned by Bush Tyres Fleet Services. We would like to extend our gratitude to Holly Tree Trades sales for facilitating this quick turnaround. They not only put a new MOT on the vehicle but also carried out remedial work and provided us with a generous discount.
With a deadline to meet, we needed the van on the road by Monday. It had to be loaded with donations from our friends at HAFGB in Welwyn Garden City. HAFGB were also instrumental in supporting our new van fund with a generous £2000 contribution, which we used to cover insurance, fuel, crossings, and necessary maintenance before our new vehicle could depart for Medyka. We were fortunate to find an excellent auto electrician, Phil from Phil O’Neill Auto Electrical in Helpringham Lincs, who worked tirelessly, through the blistering hot weather and late into weekend evenings, to ensure that we could stick to our schedule.
However, we encountered another significant challenge. Travis, Simon, and Akira were scheduled to fly into Poland on Tuesday, June 13th, and we needed the van and over £25,000 worth of aid to be there soon after we arrived. We reached out through various platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp groups, and found several willing drivers. They all confirmed their availability roughly at the same time. Although it was difficult to turn down the others, we had to let them know that we were sorted, as David was the first to confirm.
Travis and Simon, accompanied by Debs Bonfield from HAFGB and her team of volunteers, loaded the van to its capacity in Welwyn Garden City on Monday. They left it for David to collect as they made their way to meet Akira from WDRAC for the first time. The journeys were not without incident. Simon and Akira barely made it to Gatwick in time due to a major accident, causing chaos on the M25. Travis was already in Poland having flown earlier in the day but was also battling time to meet Simon and Akira – David encountered a blown-out tire just an hour away from Medyka, which added several hours to his trip, despite having European Breakdown cover. We owe David a tremendous debt of gratitude not only for his time but also for arranging the van’s Le Shuttle crossing free of charge, covering his own accommodation costs, and offering his assistance upon arrival to offload and support in the warehouse.
Back in town, Wojtek, the wizard, once again demonstrated his skills by helping us line out the van and gradually adding the branding our new vehicle was taking shape as part of the ABW team. On June 22nd, less than two weeks after purchasing the van, it embarked on its maiden voyage into Ukraine.
We still have one task remaining – giving the van a name. We invite you to participate in our polls on Facebook and Twitter, so you can feel connected to our journey if you’re reading this while the polls are still live.
Lastly, we need your ongoing support to continue our work. This van upgrade came at a significant cost, and it can only fulfil its purpose if we maintain strong funding. Ukraine is a vast country, and the van is now loaded and ready to deliver much-needed aid and sanitation to the villages and outlying areas of Kherson, following the dam breach. We rely on your continued support to ensure we have funds for fuel, accommodation, mechanical issues, and the purchase of vital aid within the country. This support not only benefits the local economy but also ensures that we make the most of every mile travelled.
If you can, please donate. If not, sharing our cause costs nothing and any form of support is greatly appreciated.