A University of Worcester graduate is helping on the ground in Ukraine, getting vital supplies to those in need and transporting refugees out of the country.
Ellie Busby was inspired to join the humanitarian relief efforts as the conflict in Ukraine escalated and has been volunteering on the Polish border.
“We wanted to take concrete action ourselves,” said the 30-year-old, who splits her time between Worcester and Germany. “The great thing we've seen in this current crisis is that individuals are taking things into their own hands. We've met so many people from all over the world who've just come to Ukraine to help.”
Ellie, her boyfriend and another friend are using a rented campervan, collecting people who are walking to the Polish border from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, and transporting them the rest of the way.
Alongside this, they have been buying vital supplies, like head torches, batteries, first aid kits and medical supplies then driving back into Ukraine to hand these over for distribution to people in need. They are also making tea and soup and giving it to those queueing at the border. Ellie has raised thousands of Euros to fund supplies.
According to the United Nations, more than one million people have crossed into Poland already since the war began. “The situation at the border is heartbreaking,” said Ellie, who graduated with a Masters’ in Nutritional Therapy from the University in 2019 and is the founder of a personalised nutrition DNA testing company. “There are thousands of people trying to cross the borders on foot. The problem is that so many refugees are left in the freezing cold, not able to sleep for more than a day and are already fatigued from traveling for four to five days from the east of Ukraine.
“We take children into the campervan in turns to get warm while we serve tea to the queue at the border, but it's incredibly hard to ask them to get out so others can warm up. With our small stoves we can only make six litres of tea in 20 to 30 minutes, but this disappears in two minutes flat. We did not think the situation would be this bad.”
Although the group were already supposed to return, they have decided to stay on as long as they can. She admitted that the prospect had initially been scary. “Especially because air raid sirens were going off as we entered Lviv the first night,” she said. “But on the first day I knew we were doing the right thing, so fear didn't matter anymore. Coming together to get through this war matters more.”
She said people were grateful. “They cannot believe we are helping - both the organisations we're working with to drop off supplies, and the refugees who we help at the border,” she said. “They always say they don't know what they would do without us and ask us why we are helping. We say we hope others would do the same if we were in that situation.”
Ellie is raising money as part of her campaign. To find out more about Ellie’s efforts go to her Instagram page.