The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent refugee crisis has left many of us shaken and worried for the people involved. With up to two million Ukrainians forced to flee in the face of Russian bombs and tanks, there is an urgent need for assistance from the wider family of European nations. Here at N2S, we’ve been asking what we can do to lend a hand.
This week, N2S Chairman Jack Gomarsall jumped into the cab of one of our articulated lorries and joined forces with Gina Long, the amazing people at her charity GeeWizz and an army of volunteers to collect supplies for Ukraine over an epic eight day charitable collection drive.
Items including coats, hats, scarves and blankets were collected by the bagful, loaded onto Jack’s lorry and brought to Bury St. Edmunds to be sorted. What started out as an ambition to fill three transit vans with goods to drive to the Romania/Ukraine border quickly snowballed, as hundreds of volunteers collected enough donations to fill six vans and 17 (seventeen!) lorries.
The volunteers were women, men and children of all ages. GeeWizz normally has a staff of ‘2.5’, but received overwhelming support from their local community. Many came to “just drop off a bag or two”, but returned to help on every one of the eight, 18-hour days of the collection drive. Each day, and every bag of goods sorted was filled with huge emotion as the volunteers pictured where it may end up. There were exhausted tears, there was unity, and above all the desire to make whatever difference they could.
The local office of law firm Ashtons Legal loaned their office to help with the administration of the collection, Coastline Graphics produced signage for the collection within hours, while individuals and hauliers supplied much needed storage and indeed the transport to the Ukraine borders. On Saturday, N2S joined the operation.
Jack Gomarsall and Gina Long had never met before the collection began. After a chance meeting between Gina Long and Jack’s wife Gillie Gomarsall at the FOLK Cafe, Jack changed his plans, unlocked his yard and personally drove 30 miles with his daughter Emily to Martlesham Tesco to collect a truck full of donations.
On Monday, after GeeWizz ran out of space to store the donations, Jack delivered another 40ft truck, which was taken to Felixstowe on Tuesday morning and then out to Ukraine.
On Tuesday, all of the goods were safely delivered to the Ukrainian border, to be distributed to the refugees by the humanitarian workers there. Two weeks ago, the vast majority of these people would have had little need for charity; now, they just have very little, and every donation has the potential to save a life.
N2S executive Chairman Andy Gomarsall MBE said:
“I’m so proud of my Dad, my niece and sister for getting involved in this epic effort. It happened after a chance encounter over a coffee at the FOLK Cafe and it all snowballed from there. Dad drove his lorry to multiple locations around Ipswich, before bringing everything back to Bury St. Edmunds for sorting and then off to Felixstowe for shipment to Ukraine.
“It’s wonderful that the N2S family was able to play a small part in the collection, but the real credit must go to Gina, to the GeeWizz charity and to the selfless people that worked 18 hour shifts to get everything sorted and packed for the people that need it.”
Gina Long, founder of the GeeWizz charity, said:
“This week alone, I have witnessed the greatness of humanity, against all odds. I’d like to give special thanks to Jack, his family and N2S after they came to the rescue of GeeWizz’s Humanitarian aid operation.
“What started as a cry for help to support my brother Oliver Horsman’s Ukraine aid effort of driving three transit vans to the Romanian-Ukraine border, and an Instagram post by my daughter Ali on her FOLK Café Instagram, snowballed into support from hundreds of wonderful selfless volunteers and donations escalating to fill three vans, fourteen 40ft curtain-side lorries, three sprinter vans and three 7.5 tonne lorries, far exceeding our expectations.
“The love, humility, and unity have been tangible on every level. Jack is so humble; he has no idea of the enormous difference he has made.
“It’s been a life changing week, one I wish didn’t have such a terrible reason to happen. Andrew and I will forever be grateful to have shared it with many like-minded new friends. My sister, brother and brother-in-law are safely on their way home, having delivered everything to Ukraine as promised.”
GeeWizz is a registered charity (number 1164353), and is based at Hall Farm, Fornham St. Martin, Bury St. Edmunds. To donate to the GeeWizz Ukraine appeal, visit geewizzcharity.com
To find out more about the GeeWizz humanitarian effort, please check out the following people via Instagram:
@geewizzcharity @ginalong_geewizz @oliverhorsman @lizhorsman @itsmikespencer @ashtons_legal @coastlinegraphics @croasdales_chemist @folk.cafe @hallfarmfornham @carlday66 @bactontransport @penelopewhiteuk