Sherkin islander Michael Collins will be putting his new camper van to good use this weekend as he embarks on a 2,500km journey to Warsaw to deliver emergency supplies for Ukrainian refugees.
Michael, who lives in Warsaw, came home just before Easter for the birthday of his mother, noted Sherkin Island artist Majella Collins. It was his dad, Michael, who referred him to the Ukraine fundraiser organised by Cormac O’Brien, a guidance counsellor at Skibbereen Community School.
‘I’d always wanted a camper van so when I found one that I liked in Dublin I bought it. I would have been driving the van back anyway but to be able to bring medical and humanitarian aid with me makes it meaningful,’ he said.
Michael will not be on his own. His friend, Matthew Collins from Schull, will be traveling with him because they always time their trips home to West Cork at the same time.
Before leaving on Saturday’s ferry, Michael said he will be loading up on aid provided by both Cormac and the WestCorkAppeal base in Bandon.
He will be delivering the goods directly to the orphanage that is caring for children whose accommodation was bombed by Russian forces, as well as a new unit that has been set up as a temporary hospice for the elderly.
Michael (28) first went to Warsaw to do Erasmus and has been going back and forth ever since, having fallen in love with a Polish woman.
He described as ‘horrific’ the plight of the refugees who came pouring into Poland. ‘We were shocked that it had come to that,’ he said.
‘There were people everywhere at the train stations, but the response was immediate. Polish citizens really pulled together. Everyone I knew was doing something: donating, collecting, cooking and preparing accommodation for the refugees.’
Michael said anyone who wants to continue to support the people of Ukraine can still make a donation to Cormac’s A Van from Skibbereen to Ukraine GoFundMe page.
The money will be used to buy and deliver aid and the remaining funds will go directly to the people working on the ground.
Cormac O’Brien told The Southern Star he initially intended to send as a donation to the orphanage and to the Jesuit refugee service, having previously done international humanitarian work with them, but feels it might in the short-term be of better use to purchase medical here in Ireland and have it delivered.
To that end, he has ordered a further consignment of medicine and medical devices because they are scarce on the ground in Poland and Ukraine.