As the crisis in Ukraine becomes ever more desperate, the people of Bridport are continuing to step up and do what they can to support Ukrainian citizens engulfed in the fighting and those fortunate enough to have been able to flee to safety, but left with nothing but the few items they are able to carry.
On Wednesday afternoon I visited Bridport’s collection point for Ukrainian Aid at Unit 34 St Michaels Estate where I met Claire Nuttall and Jane Massey who have stepped up and organised Bridport’s response to the crisis in Ukraine and some of their many volunteers.
From a spontaneous response offering a place to donate items to the operation I saw in action, has been an extremely steep learning curve for all involved. The sheer volume of items being dropped of at the Bridport Music Centre and the South Street telephone box rapidly became daunting and space to store it was becoming an issue. Thankfully a knight in shining armour in the shape of Martin Ridley of St Michaels Trading Estate, offered Unit 34 free of charge as a space to accept, store and sort the mountain of donations that was pouring in.
The team quickly realised that the type of aid being delivered was vitally important and that some of the items people were dropping off were sadly not suitable. Very quickly they established a sophisticated sorting and packaging system. Rather than simply bagging things up randomly and bunging it on a truck, every item donated is inspected and put into a box of similar items. When a box is full, it is taped up and the contents labelled on the outside in English and Polish. All of the hard work being carried out sorting the items before they are dispatched means that they able to more efficiently distributed on arrival.
As a consequence of the sorting process two piles of ‘unsuitable’ items are growing ever larger. The first contains items that are in good condition and plans are being put into place to run a big jumble sale to generate money which can then be donated to the cause. The second, thankfully much smaller pile, contains items that are completely unsuitable and unusable, these will be sold as rags and the money generated again donated to the cause. The aim is to have nothing wasted and nothing ending up in landfill.
As a result of their efforts a first articulated lorry containing 818 boxes of aid has already been dispatched and a second is already almost half full. The group has been contacted by a ‘public figure’ in Moldova which being such a small country, is struggling to cope with the influx of refugees, and that is where the second articulated lorry load of aid will be going. I was extremely impressed by the efficient professional manner in which the whole operation is being carried out.
The space was filled with clothes, baby items, blankets and even more that a small group were going through and putting into labelled boxes, making it easier for aid organisations to take over and disperse. As the bags of donated items are unpacked little, heartfelt notes from donators are found amongst the clothing, which bring tears to many eyes.
Whilst there, I met Valentyna who returned to Bridport on February 19th where she has lived for 3 years, after visiting her sister, mother, son and daughter in law in back home in Ukraine then just a few days later the invasion began on February 23rd.
She told us: “It was really warming to see people had given so much, but saddening that it is necessary.”
“It was very bad information all the time in Ukraine, on the TV, saying, ‘maybe it starts tomorrow?’, and I was worried as I’ve left all my family and I left them all the money I had.”
“On the Wednesday [when the war started], my friend left me a message saying, ‘it is war’. It was very awful. All the people left home and were driving west.”
“So many people didn’t have time to pick up clothes before leaving their homes and some had to leave their cars as there were queues into the petrol stations.”
Her son and daughter in law are currently staying in Lviv with friends of friends who have been able to put them up in a room. However, her daughter in law suffers from diabetes and became very unwell, having to go to hospital, with her son having to visit numerous pharmacies to find medicine as she now has to regularly take insulin.
Valentyna’s mother and sister live in Kharkiv and have recently left to stay in a village around 20 miles from the city.
With tears in her eyes she told me: “I call every day, I call my sister, I call my son, my daughter in law’s mother and I call my friends.” She also has a niece in Moscow who is really struggling.
Valentyna added: “She is always crying, she told me she hates Russia and wants to go back to Ukraine. Some of her friends don’t want to speak to her, she had a very close friend and now they don’t speak because they are thinking differently.”
Valentyna remembers her home fondly and when she couldn’t visit during lockdown, she would look online at photos of the country.
“It is a beautiful country,” she said, “green spaces and parks, and now I see my university without windows, without anything because they have bombed it.”
She was clearly humbled by all the help people were offering and thanked all the volunteers for what they are doing.
Having so recently visited family and friends in Ukraine, and fortunately still managing to maintain some contact withe those left there, Valentyna was able to share her valuable knowledge and experience of the conflict, including details about how members of her family are coping back home. She was also able to offer a direct insight into the kind of items that refugees and people were in need of most. As a result, the team is now putting together ‘soldier boxes’ which include items such a thermal underwear, socks and waterproofs.
Hearing first hand from someone who has such strong ties with Ukraine provided all who were listening to her with a real insight into what is happening and what is really needed.
Other ways you can help.
Donate money – One of the best ways to help is by donating cash through trusted charities and aid organisations. The Disasters Emergency Committee Ukraine Appeal is made up of 15 leading UK charities which are working together to provide emergency aid in Ukraine. We recommend donating money rather than goods. Cash can be transferred quickly to areas where it is needed, and individuals and aid organisations can use it to buy what is most needed. Unsolicited donations of goods, although well-meant, can obstruct supply chains and delay more urgent life-saving assistance from getting through.
Translate – Do you speak Ukrainian or Russian? Please contact by email if you can offer interpretation and translation skills email@example.com
‘HOMES FOR UKRAINE’ SCHEME
The Government has now published information about the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme, where people can offer to open their homes to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
To find out more simply click on the following links:
COMMONWEALTH DAY 2022
The second Monday in March is Commonwealth Day and once again we were able to celebrate it with a small ceremony outside the Town Council offices at Mountfield.
Following a few words of welcome I handed over to three pupils from Bridport Primary School who delivered a short presentation linking their school’s Rights Respecting status with the Commonwealth Affirmation.
I then delivered The Affirmation, the words of which struck a particularly strong chord with me as I read them aloud this year.
- We affirm that every person possesses unique worth and dignity.
- We affirm our respect for nature, and that we will be stewards of the earth by caring for every part of it, and for it as a whole.
- We affirm our belief in justice for everyone, and peace among peoples and nations.
- Joining together in kinship and affinity, in diversity and unity, as members of a worldwide family of nations, we build on shared inheritances.
- We cooperate with mutual respect and goodwill to deliver a common future for the good of all.
- Through Commonwealth connection we learn from one another, and innovate to transform our communities, our nations and our world.
The Rev Pete Stone then delivered a thoughtful reflection linking the Affirmation with current strife across the globe. The ceremony was brought to a close by a rousing cry delivered by Town Crier, John Collingwood.
A Queen’s Jubilee Tree Planted
Following the ceremony, the group moved to the War Memorial Garden where a tree was planted by Bridport Heritage Forum helped by pupils from Bridport Primary School to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Whilst we planted the tree I told the pupils that they needed to remember to return on March 14th 2092 to see how big the tree had become. That date would be 70 years on from the day it was planted, exactly the same number of years the Queen has been on the throne.
GET BRIDPORT BLOOMING IN SPRING 2023
The emergence of the first snowdrops in January is followed by crocuses and celandines in February. By March, the bobbing heads of daffodils burst forth to bring joy and remind us that the dark days of winter are behind us and the balmy summer days are not far away. I look forward to seeing these delicate but hardy little flowers emerging every year and am mesmerised by their sheer beauty. Every year I think I must plant even more to enhance and enrich the cheery displays these powerful little harbingers of spring put on for us.
It is not only in our own gardens that spring bulbs are bursting forth, along roadsides and beside hedgerows, in our green spaces and even on roundabouts the golden glow of daffodils is a welcome sight. Even as I travel the A35 between Bridport and Dorchester there are random groups of daffodil flowers in the middle of nowhere. How did they get there I wonder as I drive past?
Last autumn, you may recall I joined a group of Wellfields residents one Sunday morning when they set about planting spring bulbs around the trees growing on the green.
Just a few short months later and the results of their efforts are now in bloom and what a wonderful sight they make. What is there not to love about what they have achieved?
As you make your way around the town put your mind towards other spaces where the planting of spring bulbs could brighten up that space next year as we emerge from another dull dark winter.
The Bridport Gardening Club with the support of Groves Nurseries will be giving away daffodil bulbs for planting this autumn 2022. Individuals and groups are invited to put forward places such as grass verges and public spaces (but not roundabouts) where they could plant bulbs which can be enjoyed by the most people.
Please contact BDGC by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with locations and
photographs of your suggested sites for planting later in the year
BDGC will be working in collaboration with Bridport Town Council on the suitability of the suggested sites before giving out the bulbs in September.
Just try to imagine the blaze of colour we will all be able to look forward to enjoy in 12 months time.
AND FINALLY – The Mayors Charity Quiz
The poster below gives details about the 2022 Mayors Quiz Night in support of Harmony and the Living Tree.
Will your group of friends, community group or business team end up as the best quiz team in Bridport? The only way to find out is to enter and enjoy a fun filled evening raising funds for two really worthy local charities.
To book a table: call 01308 424901 or drop into the Tourist Information Centre
Feel free to print off or use the poster electronically to gather your Mayors Quiz team together.
My thanks to Lottie Welch for some of the images and background information used in this Blog.