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Going the extra mile for Ukraine

The appalling conflict in Ukraine is still ongoing with many civilians on the ground requiring humanitarian aid and more than 13 million people having now fled the war-torn country.

Recently, Early Years teacher Heather Woods did her part to help the humanitarian effort when she and a team of Troon volunteers travelled to Poland to provide donations and assistance to Ukraine refugees.

Heather is an Early Years teacher in the Early Years Quality Improvement Team. Living with her husband in Troon, she has two daughters and began working for the Council when she first moved to the Ayrshire seaside town to start her job with us eight years ago.

She shared: “As a parent and Early Years teacher, I was heartbroken to hear of all the refugees having to flee from their homes in Ukraine when the war started back in March. I just couldn’t imagine what they were going through and like so many I wanted to do something to help, but felt helpless.”

Taking action to help refugees

Luckily, a friend of Heather’s had decided to arrange a trip to Poland to take out aid that she was collecting via the Micah Project – a Troon Parish Church humanitarian project seeking to provide food, clothing and wellbeing support to displaced refugees.

“When I learned of the opportunity to travel over there to help out, I jumped at the chance,” Heather shared. “Donations were collected from the local community direct to The Micah Project and local secondary school Marr College helped out by collecting further donations.

“Through social media, specific donations were then asked for, including several fulfilled by my team (the Early Years Improvement Team). Our team of volunteers then had to sort through and label everything to be counted at customs. We used recycled banana boxes for storage as these were easy for transporting and filled them up with useful donation items.”

Other donations also included nappies, wipes, baby milk toiletries, sanitary products, hats, scarves and children’s underwear.

“The children were really at the forefront of what we were doing so we could make life easier for their parents who were dealing with the trauma of the conflict and being displaced. We tried to fill as many backpacks as we possibly could too, with stationery and small toys and lots of medical supplies. The Micah Project also had a Just Giving page for further support.”

Via online monetary donations, the team also raised a staggering £20,000 used by the volunteers to buy food and toiletries when they arrived in Poland.

Thanks from our Chief Executive

Craig Hatton commented: “North Ayrshire Council is committed to providing sanctuary and support to those displaced by the harrowing ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The crisis has already generated significant community reaction – Heather is a fine example of this. Alongside her brave team, she is a true humanitarian hero.

“Heather has not only sacrificed her own time and resources, she and the resilient volunteers bravely embarked upon a trip during a time of conflict to provide support to our neighbouring refugees when they were most in need.

“I would like to thank them all for their courage, dedication, resilience and bravery during their travels and extend my gratitude to Heather’s colleagues and to the many local people who did their part to donate to the group’s vital humanitarian efforts.”

Scotland’s Homes For Ukraine

In addition to Ukrainians being hosted by residents under the Homes For Ukraine scheme and the Super Sponsor Scheme, the Council has been finding people new homes right across North Ayrshire.

In North Ayrshire, significant progress has already been made with:

  • 64 Ukrainian individuals “matched” with sponsor families in North Ayrshire under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme;
  • 34 of the 64 Ukrainian individuals already accommodated by sponsor families, with the remaining 30 yet to arrive;
  • An additional 20 households (48 individuals) have now moved in to Council/ Registered Social Landlord properties within North Ayrshire, with more expected to arrive in the coming days and weeks.

If you are interested in becoming a host for Ukrainian  refugees, find out more on the website using the link below: Being a host for people from Ukraine (

Making the journey…

Travelling from 27 March until 2 April, Heather and five other Micah Project volunteers travelled in two cars and a van packed full of all the aid.

“We drove to Newcastle then took the overnight ferry to Amsterdam, driving then from there to Warsaw. Luckily, we had no problems at customs and managed to get straight through,” said Heather as she reflected upon the journey.

During the visit to Poland, the volunteers managed to meet and support a group of Ukrainian ladies and their children who were staying in a community centre, taking them to a cash and carry to buy food, and purchase underwear for the ladies and sports equipment to keep the children entertained.

Heather shared: “We were able to spend some time with the families after getting them everything they needed and enjoyed having some tea and a game of football at the centre’s garden – a light relief for the children after everything they had been through.”

Heather and the other volunteers then travelled to a train station in Warsaw where many Ukrainians were arriving after a very long journey – still not knowing where they would end up.

The reality of the hardships faced

“Arriving at the train station really was the hardest part of the trip for us,” Heather commented. “We saw people at their lowest without any idea of what was coming next. We took water, bananas, breakfast bars, toiletries, nappies, wipes, hats and scarves and gave them some of the filled banana-box donations we’d prepared from back home. The team then took the remainder of the donations purchased in Poland, along with cars full of food and toiletries from the cash and carry, to the EXPO.”

Heather added: “The EXPO was a huge conference centre with five massive buildings. Two of these were housing 8,000 refugees each and another was the drop-off and storage location for all the donations received. Our efforts here felt like a drop in the ocean, but we just had to remind ourselves that every little really does help and it was also really encouraging for us all to see how the Polish citizens were pulling together and supporting all the Ukrainians who had arrived in their country.”

The medical aid was then collected from the EXPO and taken into Ukraine by Polish aid workers and arrived not long after Heather and her group arrived back home in early April.

Scotland is currently providing refuge and sanctuary to displaced Ukrainians and North Ayrshire is fully playing its part (see left highlights for progress made so far…)

Yvonne Baulk, Head of Service (Housing and Public Protection) said: “As a Council, we have all been horrified by the plight of Ukrainians who have been forced to uproot their lives and flee their homes with their families.

“We already have a well-established Refugee Task Force who are working closely with refugees coming to North Ayrshire to identify suitable accommodation and help them to access services such as GPs, schools, dentists and welfare benefits. We’ve been very fortunate to also have skilled translators who have helped the adjustment go so much smoother.”

Yvonne added: “I would like to extend a huge thanks to all the members of the Refugee Task Force and also to colleagues in services all across the Council for their massive efforts just now.

“Our teams have been working hard together to welcome the Ukrainian families and ensure that they are not only rehomed, but also have access to all the vital services they need. Their work and dedication is so very much appreciated as we do our part to help Ukraine citizens settle in to our communities throughout North Ayrshire.”

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