Lev Romanyshyn for NP-UN, Vancouver.
“This was indeed a pretty “Gucci” container”, is how our Tamara Moldon RN described the latest shipping container that Суспільна Служба Українців Канади – Ванкувер / Ukrainian Canadian Social Services – Vancouver (UCSS-V) is sending to eastern Ukraine’s hospitals. Fittingly, we packed it on Jan 6th, 2024, on Christmas Eve, as celebrated historically according to the Julian calendar. UCSS-V has shipped over two dozen containers to Ukraine since the inception of the program in 2016, including over one dozen since the russians invaded Ukraine in February, 2022.
What made this one special? For starters, over 500 Intravenous (IV) pumps, valued at about $2000 each. In addition to that we loaded our “usual” supplies: single-use medical items (dressings, bandages, etc.), beds and mattresses, wheelchairs, etc. We also sent an ICU bed and mattresses, a laparoscopy tower, ventilators, several patient lifts, surgical suction systems, and dozens of oxygen concentrators. Indeed, a “primo” container.
Where does it all come from? Donations from British Columbia’s hospitals, health authorities and clinics. As newer, and more modern, equipment replaces outdated versions, the hospitals are looking for places to dispose of the surplus machines, beds, etc. Conversely, hospitals in war zones and underdeveloped countries are begging for equipment because it is non-existent at their particular locations.
Enter Tamara and Rotary World Help. Year ‘round, Rotary World Help staff pick up surplus medical equipment and drive it to the Rotary warehouse outside Vancouver, where, for years now, Rotary volunteers have been loading the material into containers destined for countries around the world: not just Ukraine, but Philippines, Ethiopia and Cuba, to name a few. A point of trivia for my readers: Rotary’s very first such container was loaded and shipped to Ukraine. Tamara, with her contacts at the various health organizations, is relentless and tireless in sourcing surplus equipment and “soon-to-expire” supplies for the Ukrainian hospitals – as with many grocery items, “Best Before” and “Soon-to-Expire” supplies are still quite usable long after these dates have come and gone.
Tamara, not one to receive accolades herself, says, “knowing how many people it takes to make all of this happen, and the distances these items travel just to get to the container is so humbling.” None of this could happen without our volunteers and donors. For example, a group of relatively recently-arrived Ukrainians shows up for every loading, having ridden the Vancouver Skytrain and various connecting buses for a couple of hours to come and help at the loadings. While the equipment and supplies are donated, as is the pick-up by Rotary, UCSS-V itself pays for the transport of the containers, first to Poland, then to Kyiv, where the equipment and supplies are distributed to where they are most needed, i.e., to hospitals and clinics on the eastern front. The cost has risen over the years and is now in the vicinity of $16,000 (Canadian), per shipment. Tax deductible donations from our supporters funded these shipments and new donations will ensure that these supplies continue to be sent to help heal Ukraine’s wounded military personnel and civilians.
To close, it would be fitting to share with you some of the comments (translated from the original Ukrainian) we’ve received from UCSS-V’s contact in Kyiv, Благодійний Фонд – Україна в Броні / Charitable Foundation – Ukraine in Armor:
“On behalf of all Ukrainians who have received aid from you, we are infinitely grateful for your help in overcoming the suffering brought on by the cruel aggressor, the terrorist state, russia. In fact, over the years you have sent us 20 forty-foot containers filled with medical supplies! And I personally want to thank you for putting your trust in me and my organization to distribute this donated humanitarian aid to where it is needed the most.
Thank you from the doctors: For the precious medical equipment that provides more opportunities, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, to treat and save lives of the victims of the russian genocide. Thanks to you and your help we have distributed desperately needed medical equipment and supplies to more than 180 hospitals.
Thank you from the people: What was a normal life for our citizens became one of tragedy and horror because of russia’s invasion: homelessness, mutilations, deaths and abductions (especially of children). Thanks to your donations, more than two thousand people have received warm clothes and hygiene products. More than 300 families of military personnel and temporarily displaced persons have received baby kits, diapers and hygiene products, to name a few items. … Also, 7 maternity homes received furniture and medical supplies, and there are donated incubators on the way. Thanks to your efforts, 3D hand prosthetic technology was introduced to Ukraine.
Thank you from the soldiers: From the soldiers while they battle the enemy at the frontlines. The soldiers who face the enemy every day. The soldiers who sleep on the ground in the cold. The soldiers who are wounded in battle. Essential items they have received include simple things like dry showers and wet wipes. But also chemical heaters and medical supplies to stabilize the wounded and traumatized.”
After we defeat this enemy, Ukrainians may indeed be buying Gucci bags, but, for now, their greater need is for more “Gucci” containers. Please donate to UCSS-V, 101-3873 Cates Landing Way, North Vancouver, BC V7G 0A6. All donations will receive a receipt for Canadian income tax deduction.