More support headed to Ukraine

Loads of Love volunteers Miriam Randall and Penny Stull cram soft goods into all the nooks and crannies of a flat of hospital beds destined for Ukraine.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

As the relentless Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, so to does the boots-on-the-ground humanitarian work of Loads of Love.

Ed Dickson, overseas director with the Chatham-based charity, said Loads of Love has assisted 5,000 families in the war-torn country since the conflict began.

Thus far, none of the charity’s staff or volunteers have been harmed.

“It’s like a miracle,” Dickson said late last week, adding the hands of many volunteers are assisting Loads of Love in Ukraine, helping distribute food, medicine and other necessities.

Dickson sets his alarm and connects with staff at 2 a.m. Chatham time when it’s daylight in Eastern Europe.

According to Dickson, no one in his adopted homeland – he’s lived there for 25 years –wants war, and neither do his contacts in Russia.

“Everyone is terribly afraid,” he stressed.

But, as in the rest of the world, Dickson said misinformation is impacting the conflict.

State-sanctioned media, which is calling the Ukraine invasion a “military operation,” is skewing the way most Russians see the war.

“A big percentage of the Russian people are drinking the Kool-Aid,” Dickson noted. “And they only have one flavour of Kool-Aid.”

Aside from the obvious issues of death and destruction, there’s worry Ukrainian farmers – the country is a major wheat producer – can’t plant their crops which they should be doing right now.

Another issue, he said, is the toll on children as the constant sound of sirens and bombs is causing extreme trauma.

Dickson is quick to point out the work couldn’t go on without the recent influx of cash donations from Canadians.

“I’m amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity,” Dickson told The Chatham Voice. “This is the real spirit of Canada coming out. Helping people in trouble is what we do.”

Dickson, who is married to a Ukrainian national, with whom he shares four daughters, said his wife’s family has been moved away from the fighting and is safe for now.

Dickson said Ukrainians are still feeling disbelief with what has happened.

He said he’s proud of Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky, noting he has risen to the challenge.

Zelensky spoke directly to the governments of many Western countries last week, including Canada’s.

“I’m extremely inspired by what he’s doing and his message,” Dickson said. “I think you can tell he’s not a politician, but a strong leader.”

In the meantime here in Ontario, Chatham’s Loads of Love volunteers are hard at it.

The team is working to prepare two 40-foot shipping containers that will leave for Ukraine within the next two weeks.

According to Loads of Love container co-ordinator Penny Stull, one of the containers will be filled to the brim with a dehydrated bean and vegetable soup mix, while the other will carry medical supplies including hospital beds, personal hygiene packets, blankets and even some teddy bears.

Stull said the organization is able to purchase most needed goods because of cash donations. Currently, Stull said Loads of Love is unable to ship donated items such as clothing.

“Giving cash is the best thing that people can do right now,” Stull said, adding Loads of Love works closely with other Canadian charities such as Cambridge-based Ontario Christian Gleaners, Southwestern Ontario Gleaners in Leamington, Jabez Blanket Ministries and Burlington-based Sew on Fire.

At present it costs around $8,000 to ship each container. The containers are trucked from Chatham to Toronto and then shipped by rail to Montreal.

There they are loaded on a ship where they travel by sea for 40 days to a port in Poland. They will then be trucked overland to Ukraine.

Donations can be made to Loads of Love by cash, cheque or e-transfer of which 100 per cent goes for supplies.

Online donations can also be made through Canada Helps, which keeps a small administration fee.

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