Buxton haulage firm's aid mission for Ukraine

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A Buxton based haulage company has sprung into action to collect aid and supplies for those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

After seeing the shocking scenes unfolding on the news over the last few weeks as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, the owners of Lomas Distribution decided they wanted to collect donations and deliver relief supplies to Poland.

In a remarkably short period of time, the word went out via social media and donations flooded in with local generosity knowing no bounds.

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Deborah Barham Smith has seen the operation unfold and has compiled this report:

Organising and packing all the items was a huge operationOrganising and packing all the items was a huge operation
Organising and packing all the items was a huge operation

“The Fleet Manager, Eddie Marritt, along with assistance from the designated driver whose native language is Polish, liaised with the Polish Embassy. Luckily the company already had an international haulage licence, so then needed to put in place all the other logistics to carry out the trip. To ascertain the most essential items to take as help towards the refugee effort meant seeking advice through the Embassy, as well as copious lists provided by various charities in the field.

“When the donations came in, the sheer quantity was stunning. A company where some of the Lomas fleet had been purchased donated a 44 ton lorry, with another contribution being for the fuel, while another local firm gave a very large amount of bottled water, medical supplies were garnered wherever available, and generally the public were amazing.

“Getting the word out was possibly the easiest part. The next challenge was dealing with the wide variety of mixed boxes as they came in.

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“The Lomas’ daughter, Annabel, along with Natasha and Rhianna, were the force behind organising much of the process. As Eddie explained, to do a totally professional job as they are used to doing, key was unpacking and sorting every single thing; hence all the items were repacked into specific cases, such as one for toothbrushes, another for toothpaste, nappies etc.

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All loaded up and ready to goAll loaded up and ready to go
All loaded up and ready to go

“Each finished box was then labelled with a list of its contents for the manifest necessary for customs clearance, and to make it easier to handle at the destination. With all necessary information clearly shown, the Red Cross could unpack and distribute more easily with all those boxes having been labelled in a combination of English, Polish and Russian languages. Some of the office staff at Lomas would take it in turns to do a stint of unpacking and sorting, and then other volunteers from outside, too were invaluable.

“From starting the seed of the idea to getting the lorry fully packed and ready to go has taken a very full week of teamwork, with there being no shortage of volunteers. Eddie and Annabel both said that they had no idea just how much work it would turn out to be, but so worthwhile.

“Having seen the operation in progress first hand, I was most impressed. It was very heartening to see so much good and compassion happening on the ground here in England when so much unimaginable agony is being inflicted on Ukraine.

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“Once the boxes were unpacked, sorted, repacked and labelled they were put into one lorry, from which they were to be moved into the donated one. That was to be locked away safely for the night and to have large Humanitarian Aid stickers attached which would hopefully would ease its progress through numerous borders once in Europe.

Humanitarian aid stickers were placed on the lorry to hopefully ease its progress through the bordersHumanitarian aid stickers were placed on the lorry to hopefully ease its progress through the borders
Humanitarian aid stickers were placed on the lorry to hopefully ease its progress through the borders

“After the lorry was filled to capacity, the volume donated had been such that there was still a residue. The spare food was given to a food bank and some clothing deemed to be less than appropriate (such as too lightweight for the weather conditions was given to home charities). One thing that I found interesting was that very few shoes were donated – something perhaps to bear in mind for any similar operations in the future.

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“During the planning of the itinerary, the route had to be altered after P&O Ferries paused all operations; the route was finally to leave England via Dover and the Channel Tunnel instead of going from Hull.

“With its Polish driver, the lorry finally left at 3am on Monday and was due to attive in Poland on Thursday. The route will be about 1,700kms from Calais. Although I supposed that it would be emotional for the driver, as Eddie said up until the last 10km it would be a normal run.

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“Hopefully once the cargo has been unloaded the driver may be able to get to see his family who lives nearby the destination. (To put it into context geographically, Lviv in Ukraine will be about 85km from there). The lorry was originally scheduled to deliver to an Aid Centre operated by the Polish Red Cross but the particular one hadn’t got the capability of coping with unloading, so the destination has had to be changed slightly.

Driver JanuszDriver Janusz
Driver Janusz

“The cost of this mercy mission is hard to calculate. Lorries like this do perhaps seven miles to the gallon, with fuel now reaching unexpected highs, there are also numerous tolls on the route through to Poland; plus an enormous amount of man and woman hours that have gone into planning and carrying out the whole undertaking.

“Once delivered, the aid will be split between refugee sites and some will go straight into Ukraine.

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“The real value of this project is the unquantifiable good it will accomplish once the gifts arrive.

“The kindness, generosity and compassion involved in the Lomas Humanitarian Aid journey begins to restore faith in human nature.”

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