Langford team completes humanitarian aid trip to Ukraine

Langford team completes humanitarian aid trip to Ukraine
On the first night of the humanitarian trip, the team from Langford met with municipal leaders and the team's interpreter Svitlana Makhnovet. (City of Langford)

A team from Langford, including the mayor, has returned from their four-day humanitarian trip to Lutsk, Ukraine, where over 7,000 supply kits were delivered with 14,000 more on the way.

The City of Langford sent a team to Ukraine to distribute funds raised to help provide humanitarian relief in the war-stricken country.

The team from Langford consisted of Mayor Stew Young, Retired Fire Chief Bob Beckett, Shawn Carby from GlobalMedic and Brendan Strain, a volunteer videographer.

While in Ukraine the team met with municipal leaders, school officials, emergency responders, and medical personnel in order to get firsthand knowledge of what is happening in the country.

“It may be dangerous for us, but we’re only here a short time. You guys have to live here while this is going on,” Young said while speaking with a member of parliament and the deputy of Volyn region. “We’ll try to provide as much aid as we can.”

During the meeting, an air raid siren sounds, but no rockets hit Lutsk. In a video, Langford says during the four-day trip, Russia hit the country with 160 rockets, none hit Lutsk.

The team was paired with an interpreter, Svitlana Makhnovet, and met with her family to hear how the war has impacted them.

“It’s very complicated, very hard, it’s hell,” Sergii Samchuck, Makhnovet’s father said with Makhnovet interpreting. “Many friends died, and many people that we know.”

“What we see last week and this week is an escalation of the war and it’s getting worse, they want to open the second line not only east and south but from the west and people here are very afraid of it and without help we won’t make it,” said Larysa Samchuck, Makhnovet’s mother with Makhnovet interpreting. “What we want the world to know is we still need help, even more than before.

The family has an underground cellar with stores of food, where they used to hide during air sirens.

“This is the place which we were hiding in when we heard the air alert for the first time, but when we got here, with my mom and brother, we understood that it’s even more dangerous in here than outside, than to stay inside the house,” said Makhnovet.

“This is what most people have, they don’t have special bomb shelters, that’s why sometimes they just ignore air alerts because they don’t have anywhere to hide.”

Makhnovet lost her business during the war, and GlobalMedic hired her as an interpreter.

“We had many plans, we wanted to buy an apartment, to start a family, maybe have children. Now everything is destroyed,” Makhnovet said. “The feeling of uncertainty about the future is so strong that now when I go to the supermarket and I see pasta with discount, I don’t buy two because I think if I buy too much I will be killed so I won’t need it.”

Makhnovet said that she has grown used to the air raids since they are part of the new reality that sometimes she even sleeps through them.

“Ukraine means everything to me, I wouldn’t like to move to any other coutnry. I would love to be here, to develop here, to pay taxes to make Ukraine better and from all the people that I know, the people my age, all of them want the same,” Makhnovet said. “We see Ukraine as a very progressive and prosperous country.”

The team also went to a housing facility that housed people displaced in Ukraine.

“I feel for the people having to uproot themselves, leave their homes, bring their families, the young kids, the mothers, the fathers, the grandparents that come to these facilities,” Young said. “But everyone here, they’re doing such a great job. In every one of these places that we’ve visited have been superior, this is not bad housing, this is good housing, it gives them an opportunity to keep their pride and be proud.”

Carby says the facility they visited is one that has benefited from the funds raised by the City of Langford.

“This is an area that we wish to continue to support these individuals going forward, with the funds we receive from the City of Langford, in conjunction with that from GlobalMedic and hopefully we can continue to provide these individuals the care, the support, the food, the basics of life that they need but are unable to get otherwise,” Carby said.

Speaking with municipal officials, Young said the goal of the humanitarian mission was to get first hand knowledge about what was happening.

“So that we understand the issues and problems that Russia has created for your people, and we will have subsequent trips to this region to continue to help,” Young said.

One official the team met with is Viktor Bas, who is the mayor of Kamin-Kashyrsk, which shares a region with Belarus. Belarus has sided with Russia and is threatening to join the war.

“There are about 2,000 displaced people living in the community right now, so they need food and besides helping those people who live in the community, they also send food kits to hot spots of Ukraine where people need them even more,” Bas said, with Makhnovet interpreting.

“Although it has been four months of war already and people have gotten used to the tension, but still to see military move in in these territories, they got worried and people call him and ask about the movements, but they’re very motivated. The first question they ask is how can they help?”

The team met with a local school district to establish a partnership with the district and School District 62.

Schools in the country are closed during the war, and the buildings are being repurposed for the war effort. In the school the team visited, camoflague netting is being made in the gym, and donated clothing is being collected for displaced people.

During a meeting with the mayor of Olyka, the mayor noted he hopes to build a brick manufacturing facility in the community to combat the 70 per cent unemployment rate.

Young signed sister city agreements with Horohiv, Boratyn, Olyka and Kamin-Kashyrsk.

Speaking with CHEK News, Beckett says he hopes people step up to help the people of Ukraine throughout the war.

“We’d like everyone to consider what they can do and how they can help, because we cannot forget these people,” Beckett said. “And as I’ve said, many, many times as a humanitarian, if the shoe was on the other foot, you would want someone to come and help you help your family help your children.”

The city’s first round of fundraising raised over $500,000. Due to this, 7,000 kits including food, water purification tablets, and other supplies have been delivered, and another 14,000 are en route to being delivered.

The City of Langford continues to collect funds to delivery more food and firefighting supplies to Ukraine. You can find the donation page here.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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