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Sanson residents Stephen and Lynn Gill are in Ukraine and Poland to help those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Stephen and Lynn Gill, a couple from Sanson who left for Ukraine in July, are volunteering along the Polish-Ukrainian border to help those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
They cross borders every day. They work shifts, prepare food parcels, help wheelchair users cross borders and distribute supplies to people stranded in conflict zones and fleeing Ukrainian cities.
Stephen Gill said he heard many horror stories from survivors.
“I’m not sure the world really understands the magnitude of this tragedy and already many are fed up, including the media.”
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The couple who received no notice from the New Zealand government to leave Ukraine were determined to continue humanitarian work “until the last possible hour”.
“There are people from all over the world here, many of whom are comfortable in Ukraine. We have drivers from our team who go to combat zones, including Russian-occupied territory.
“The need is too great and volunteers are now rare. We will be here until the last possible hour.
The Gill couple expressed concern about the lack of volunteers from global fundraising agencies in Ukraine.
Gill said volunteers and local agencies were horrified by the global fundraising led by the Red Cross and UNHCR.
“They actually didn’t have any personnel to help with the civilian evacuation of the country. Everything seen on TV with food and shelter etc. was offered to small self-funded groups and individuals. The UN has pitched tents but [there are] no one to help the refugees.
“The Polish Red Cross did nothing until a few weeks ago. They have now taken over the refugee center at our border and expelled all foreign volunteers. If you are not Polish and you are not registered with the Red Cross, you can no longer help at the centre.
The couple said they were proud to see the New Zealand government’s efforts on behalf of Ukraine.
“We have soldiers training Ukrainians and we support Ukraine with funding and equipment.”
Speaking about former New Zealand soldier Dominic Abelen who was killed fighting on the Ukrainian frontline while on unpaid leave from the New Zealand Defense Force, Gill said Abelen died doing what he had been trained to do.
“When an innocent country is plundered and its people slaughtered, most trained soldiers would want to help.
“His family should be proud of him, but of course losing someone is a tragedy in itself.”
The couple left for Krakow in Poland on July 4. The couple have linked up with a Polish non-profit initiative Slot on the border and learned that there was a shortage of humanitarian aid.
That of the couple Safe travel The itinerary initially listed Poland and Turkey as travel destinations, but later they included Ukraine in the itinerary as they cross the borders almost every day.
A local charity Centrum Pomocy Humanitariannej w Szegini recognized the couple’s humanitarian work in a Facebook post to raise funds, purchase goods and manufacture over 500 packages of essential supplies which have been provided to those in need.