CSR, News, Sustainability

Humanitarian Aid Journey to Poland – Richard Montgomery

Our journey started when we left Kevin’s house at midnight on the 23 May. I collected my van and proceeded down the M20 to Jct 11 (services) to collect Nick Bartlett. Once Nick was onboard, we proceeded to Le-Shuttle in Folkstone to get the 02:30 train to Calais.

Our journey to Calais was 35 minutes which gave us time to adapt our vehicles for our long journey across Europe. We drove for many hours through France, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany before reaching Poland. This journey was just short of 1000 miles and over 18 hours of driving.

When we arrived at the Expo Center in Warsaw (Poland) we were greeted with a scene of disorganization; there were many groups of people waiting around outside, all who appeared to need some help.

The sight was quite emotional, and due to the language barrier, it was very hard to communicate. There wasn’t one person on site that could establish who was in charge or where the aid needed to be delivered too. We felt we had driven all this way for nothing, and we were all very disappointed to say the least. Although completely disheartened, we weren’t going to give up – that’s not what we do.

Two of us entered one of the buildings and all you could see were rows upon rows of beds stretching far throughout the structure with many disorientated people sitting around with their whole life stuffed into bags which were gathered closely at their feet. You see this on the TV but when you see this for real, it really hits home how lucky we all are to live in a country like the UK with our family and friends around us.

When we arrived Kevin gave a small boy a box of sweets from the back of the van and that put a smile on this lad’s face (and Kevin’s) it was a small gesture but hopefully one that made his day knowing that people do care about them.

This sounds odd but after driving all that way to this location where we thought we would be unloading, all of us mutually felt like this area wasn’t right. Despite this gut feeling, we were looking to return in the morning to find someone in charge who could assist us in unloading the aid for the people who needed it the most.

We left the Expo centre and made our way to the hotel, on the way we passed a bus station and a train station which appeared to have what looked like marquees outside. We saw this as a possible option but due to how late this was and us needing some much-needed rest, we continued to the hotel.

When we arrived, you could sense everyone was not happy with the situation (to say we were p****d off was an understatement) but like we do, we soldiered on and discussed the situation over a bottle of beer. We all agreed that if this aid needed to go further into Poland to the Ukrainian border, then that’s where it’s going.

In the morning we meet for breakfast, and it was decided we would go to the bus station and see what the situation was there.

We drove to the bus station and Kevin spoke to a Polish Police officer, again we still weren’t sure what was going to happen. We were a little more upbeat than the night before, but it was still playing on our minds. After a short conversation with the Police Officer, we followed them to the far side of the bus station where we were met by a couple of people from World Central Kitchen. Kevin got out of the van and spoke with them, and then I see Kevin’s face light up like a Christmas tree and they shook his hand. I then said to Nick this is it, this is where we are unloading.

I can’t explain how good the situation felt, it was like we had met family for the first time. These people were amazing, they couldn’t have been more friendly towards us, and they were so grateful of all the aid we donated to them. They even offered us some food before we left for our journey home. Wow.

After some group photos we drove away and parked up in the bus station, to say we were all buzzing was an understatement. We were all very emotional about what we had achieved, not only as the ones who drove 1000 miles, but from all the support we have received from everyone at home.

I feel really privileged to be a part of this journey and to part of the Ward family. #teamward

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