Four people from Greater Victoria have completed an eight-day humanitarian trip to Ukraine, where they donated firefighting equipment, school supplies and medical equipment, as well as fitting five Ukrainians with prosthetic arms.
The trip was led by retired Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett, who was joined by Ravi Parmar, board chair of the Sooke School District; Nick Dechev, founder of the Victoria Hand Project, and Brendan Strain, reporter with CTV Vancouver Island.
“It was like long-time friends uniting…one of the mayors put me in a bear hug and picked me up, darn near crushed me. He was so happy to see me,” said Beckett.
“To have the support of our community to do a second humanitarian trip to Ukraine is humbling and I’m so proud to have represented a community that truly cares,” said Beckett.
“Our team worked to deliver assistance when and where access and security would allow in Ukraine. Firefighting equipment was donated to facilitate and sustain rescue operations in a financially unstable community with high unemployment rates due to the war.”
This is the second trip taken by the Langford group.
Part of the supplies delivered were makeshift orthopedic drills at a third of the cost. Vancouver-based Arbutus Medical built them using standard power drills, an adapter, and a sterile cover that can be reused after each surgery. Each one costs around $4,500.
While there, the team visited with people injured in the war, and Dechev fitted five Ukrainians with prosthetic arms and provided training.
“They were looking at it with a bit of curiousity, but once they had it on and they were trying to grab stuff, they were really impressed. They were even blushing and happy so it was really nice to see,” said Dechev.
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The Victoria Hand Project also donated two 3D printers along with initial training. The group hopes that by laying down initial groundwork, Ukrainians will be able to create their own prosthetics in the future.
The team also delivered medical supplies and equipment in partnership with WUNDERFund, a not-for-profit collective raising funds and awareness for the Ukrainian war effort.
Three schools in need received over $10,000 in donations of school supplies from Parmar in partnership with Monk Office. Parmar also delivered letters from a Grade 5 class at Willway Elementary School to their Ukrainian pen-pals.
“I look up to them and being able to see the young people in Ukraine so steadfast, so patriotic, and so determined to continue their education was inspiring,” said Parmar.
Art supplies and backpacks were among the donated items. Parmar is wanting the district to do more, saying that he’s looking to find a way of bringing some Ukrainian students to the Island to study.
On his next trip, Parmar wants to donate electronics such as Chromebooks.
“We learned with supply chains they’re not able to have the same level of devices that one would want,” said Parmar.
Beckett says the next mission could be at least six months away. He’s currently making a list based off what’s needed overseas.
Anyone who would like to donate to the group’s next trip to Ukraine can email Beckett at [email protected] or visit the Victoria Hand Project’s website.