A charity delivering aid to Ukraine is appealing for more support from the haulage industry in terms of donations, drivers, bodybuilders and mechanics to help it convert 40 former London buses into field hospitals and children’s play buses, for delivery to Eastern Ukraine, where the fighting is at its worst.
The Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership (SHAP), which was launched 17 months ago by a group of British, Ukrainian, Lithuainian and Polish people living in Wiltshire, is already receiving support in the form of funding and the loan of vans from a number of UK logistics firms, including Dawsongroup, MAN and Willmotts Transport, as well as several Ukrainian transport operators.
These donations have so far helped deliver nearly 1,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid and medical equipment to affected areas in Ukraine.
Now the charity is appealing for help in getting 40 London buses converted into field hospitals, children's play buses and mobile shower units and delivered to help troops and local people in Eastern Ukraine.
SHAP chairman Mike Bowden, said: “We have been promised dozens of single deck buses that we intend to convert into mobile field hospitals, shower blocks etc, and deliver to Ukraine for use by both civilian and army personnel."
He said the first bus has already been converted by volunteers in Swindon, with all the seats removed and hospital beds, heart monitors, water tanks and a generator installed.
The converted bus set off for Ukraine this weekend (8 July) driven by a small team of volunteers, who are also taking a bendy bus and a Nissan 4x4.
The second bus, which is currently being converted, will be a bright, colourful children’s Story Bus which will be also be used for play and learning, whilst the third will be transformed into another mobile medical facility.
Bowden added: “Our plan regarding the subsequent buses is to accept them in stages and convert them according to demand from Ukraine – into additional mobile medical facilities, Story Buses, shower and toilet blocks - all things are possible.”
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He added that whilst the charity can source medical and other equipment for the buses and has volunteers carrying out the conversions, its biggest challenge is getting the buses to Ukraine, with fuel costing around £1,000 per bus, not to mention the cost of insurance for the buses and drivers, as well as accommodation and flights home. SHAP estimates getting all 40 buses to Ukraine could cost more than £100,000.
Bowden added: "Sadly our current bank balance currently stands at a paltry £2,000," and pointed to the difficulty small charities face sourcing funding.
He explained: “We are not allowed to even apply for money from the UK Government's Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) Fund - which receives substantial donations from the British public and British businesses - as we are not one of the “Big Ten” charities. This seems to unfairly penalise small, efficient organisations such as SHAP."
Former MAN Bus and truck chief executive, Des Evans, who has been active in helping the charity, called on logistics firms to help SHAP in any way they can. He said: “Unfortunately war fatigue affects even the most energetic organisation and SHAP is in need of further support in order to keep its operation going.
"It would be good if vehicle manufacturers, bodybuilders and the UK transport community could assist in any way.”
Readers interested in donating to the charity or volunteering can call SHAP on 07379 336627 or visit its facebook page: facebook.com/SHAP.Ukraine or join its facebook group.
Donations can also be made directly to: The Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership, Lloyds Bank - Old Town Swindon, UK bank sort code 30-98-97, account number -74254962.