A lot of Ukrainian citizens (the majority are women and children) are fleeing to Poland, however, they are going there empty-handed. We wanted to provide essential medical supplies directly to those in need, as well as create a happiness tent for the Kids filled with crayons, paints, and similar items.
As kids just need to be kids. And humans deserve to get essential medical care.
To ensure that things were delivered correctly and where they served the best purpose, we decided to go in person.
Dates: 31/03/22 - 4/04/22
People on site: 3
Number of songs played in the car: +500
Preparations and logistics
Before heading from Stockholm, Sweden to Medyka Camp, Poland, we talked with a lot of connections who have been at sight to get an understanding of what is needed and the current situation.
This ended up us sending out three pallets of products from Agood Company that we thought were essential for those coming over the border of Ukraine into Poland. The pallets weighted of approx. 2 tonnes and included our hand spray, toothbrushes, sketchbooks and crayons.
That’s a bunch of goods, and the value, even though far from the most important, was approx. 150k EUR. Most importantly though was the goods were requested and in urgent need during this preliminary examination.
The last part about the preliminary examination, might sound very strange, but we will further elaborate on this in a bit.
Medyka Camp, Polish border
Late Friday night after nearly 1000km of driving across Poland from Gdansk, where the Ferry arrived from Nynäshamn, we arrived near the Medyka Camp.
The closer the border of war was it created in lack of a better word, intensity. We do not deny that we all had this emotion as we only are happy amateurs being in such a climate, trying to do something. And that must be ok.
It was late evening, mild snowing, and from what we could see, only the police were watching the area. This meant it was very hard for us to get a feeling of the camp, how everything worked and also spot and assess any danger or urgent need.
As you can imagine, arriving anywhere at night creates an entirely different feeling of the place and especially seeing the clock steady pumping towards another sunrise.
After such a long journey, the focus was now to find a safe place to sleep.
Within our van, we prepared with sleeping sacks and pads, but it’s not particularly friendly to share sleeping space with 600 kg of medical equipment back in a truck with a negative temperature. Adding on that we didn't have a clue about the area, it was more of a last resort.
Luckily (thank lord for that) we found the last available room, just a few minutes drive from the border, and the happiness to sleep fairly well, to prepare for the next few days ahead of us, was not to be ignored.
That's day one.
Arriving at the camp
Despite only about 4 hours of sleep, we were up for some breakfast and preparing for the day. Just before falling asleep, we once again debriefed reactions on potential emotions, the importance of not caring these inside and also more projects related to what was essential to achieve.
But also what risks we were willing to take to get the job done.
Speaking openly was our way of preparing, but also to get one another feeling safe sharing if something was not.
Entering the camp again, now with daylight as a friend, we went off to speak with a few people who gave us advice on how to best help those in need.
It became clear that there was no need for goods at the camp as The Red Cross and multiple other big organisations were already there.
To put it bluntly, it was an overflow of stuff and moreover, instead of people sleeping in the camp for a few days it was now buses taking refugees further into mainland Poland, away from the border just after crossing to the border to safety.
These are things that, of course, happened gradually, and our preliminary intel was not wrong then but for sure now.
Now back to these lost pallets. As no sign of them were in the camp we took another stop to where they were originally sent.
A school not far from the camp. Entering the school, now serving as a transit camp with 150 beds, we met with a very helpful volunteer Philip, from Germany, who we had another coffee with, while watching a few kids and mums playing around in the big gymnasium.
By checking out the school, we politely asked Philip if he by any chance received our pallets since this was the destination point of the goods, but no luck.
But then quick as a butterfly's wingbeat luck.
Philip, fluent in Polish, went on talking with some other people volunteering in the camp. A few minutes later, faces shined and on an older gentlemen's phone with our company name on a piece of proof of delivery paper showed.
The pallets are located. Mission one accomplished. And damn that felt nice.
The next move
The warehouse storing our pallets was not open until 12.30, so to spend the time wise we decided to collect more information on how to fulfil the overlying purpose of the trip. To do as much good as possible.
As the Medyka camp was already having a lot of volunteers helping, we revisited a small Norwegian NGO, Paracrew.
During another cup of coffee with Jakob, the owner of the NGO using his experience, both as a former military but also now running this fast-moving NGO the adjusted plan became quite clear.
Or well, it was clear.
To make a difference, the goods needed come into Ukraine and onwards deep into the east side of the country where it's needed the most. However, an issue arose from Jakobs perspective was to avoid giving it to the wrong hands.
He shared a few heartbreaking stories about people leaving goods in good faith realising too late, that the receiver instead resold on the black market, rewarding only themselves. This is not unusual, since people, for somewhat understandable reasons, always have to cover basic needs first. This can never be underestimated, but something for us to consider.
Jakob (we love you), connected us with two Swedish heroes working from inside Ukraine.
After a quick facetime video call with them, we had a short huddle to ensure that we all felt that it was OK entering a country at war. And that we all had the same good vibe about these guys.
For all, it felt self-evident crossing the border.
Since the heroes mainly focused on medical supplies, we in parallel, reached out to another NGO we talked with before coming down, Caritas and decided to meet and split the cargo.
After a quick meet and greet we repacked all the canned food and packed their van to the breaking limit. They planned to take the food into the suburbs of Charkiv.
We later heard that drivers, with clear red cross signs on the sides brining our food, was shot on by the Russians, but luckily no casualties.
The medical supplies from us with some other goods from both Caritas and Paracrew, together with the most critical goods from the pallets were then repacked into our van.
A parenthesis, but it’s truly heartwarming how everyone sets aside what’s mine and yours and just joins under the We flag, sharing a common goal.
Before entering Ukraine, we agreed with Philip that the last pallet should be delivered the same way at a later stage.
Time to get in line to cross the border.
In total it took us around 4 hours just to pass the border control, due to the heavy control taking place on both the Polish and Ukrainian side.
The phrase “Humanitarian aid for Charkiv” did the trick for us in customs, to be granted access into Ukraine.
Just a short drive-in, we can not disclose the exact address for security, we met the Swedish heroes at this underground warehouse. Or warehouse, it was a backyard of a local Ukrainian with some sheet metal on wet grass.
Once again, it’s striking to see how people just forget the I and embrace the We.
Successfully unloading the goods, another four hours of cue awaited and we all wished one another the best and well.
The last chapter, for now
From leaving the goods at this underground warehouse, we've got regular updates via photos of the goods being delivered further down into the east of Ukraine.
Over 80% were delivered in the first 24 hours and given to those who needed them the most. Bucha, Charkiv and Mariupol hospitals are among those who got the supplies.
As you can tell from our trip, the biggest learning is that people are so helpful and caring. Despite being a lot of people at the camp, each was keen to stop and speak to us and figure out the best way for us to help. The people of Ukraine were at the forefront of everyone's mind and everyone came together to ensure the goods were delivered to the right people and places. Nothing more was essential, humanity will win this horrible war.
Another, more logistical learning is that you can’t manage the supply chain in a country from a distance. Even though we talked with more than five people who worked at that particular camp just weeks before, studying Google Maps like crazy, a war is moving material.
A plan is a plan, not more. Have one, but don't shillyshally throw it out from the window.
Things change and our top advice is that one needs to be agile and flexible.
To be very clear. Our original plan was not to go into Ukraine.
However, it was the plan which made the most sense to us when we were there. And then, as long as it's within your bounders act.
And finally, even the smallest donation makes a difference.
Every vinyl glove matters and it can, to be frank, be the difference between living and dying for an innocent human. And so is every chart of painkillers. Or whatever is needed right now.
Donating only a small amount can still help the lives of those in need.
And finally we could see at the camp, larger charities like MSF are highly efficient and help a massive amount of people. And same with these smaller underground NGOs and people like us. Both need to co-exist and there must not be any competition between them.
So. Take action. It matters. A lot.
Thank you for your support!
Finally, we also want to say a big thank you to all of you for buying products from us and supporting us! As we have mentioned before, all of you who made a purchase from us this year have contributed to directly supporting the brave people of Ukraine.
Another thank you to all of you who attended our event in Stockholm, Let Her Decide, as, throughout the evening, people were donating to Agood Foundation and to those who won our auction prizes, as all the money went to Agood Foundation.
We also started a fundraiser with UNICEF on our Instagram, they are currently on the ground reaching out to children with water, health and education services.
Lastly, we understand that not everyone can donate, so another way to support Ukraine is to stay informed and be cautious about the information spreading on social media.