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Girton Fellow joins convoy delivering essential humanitarian aid to Ukraine

Four cars in a line

In March 2024, a convoy of vehicles carrying essential humanitarian aid departed Cambridge for Ukraine. At the wheel of one of the 4x4 cars was Professor Marie-Aude Genain, Girton College Official Fellow and Principal Radiologist at The Queen's Veterinary School Hospital. 

Volunteers from the University of Cambridge and the wider city made their way through France, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland before joining an Irish convoy on the Polish border for the final leg into Ukraine. In total, they formed a group of 13 vehicles, made up of 9 four-wheel-drive vehicles, 2 vans, and 2 ambulances.  

Over two years have passed since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and Ukrainians on the ground remain in dire need of supplies. Many of its towns, villages and roads have been destroyed. Off-road vehicles are an essential part of the humanitarian aid required to help evacuate civilians from areas that quickly become conflict zones, transport wounded people, and allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need.

Marie-Aude shared: 

"Participating in the March convoy was a very humbling and  emotional experience for me. The accounts we heard from our Ukrainian partners regarding the humanitarian crisis affecting civilians in Ukraine highlighted how important each vehicle delivery is in assisting the humanitarian effort and dire supply needs arising from the conflict in Ukraine."

Marie-Aude looks at a map while being photographed by a man with a camera

Tom Walston, the Head of Convoy4Ukraine, said: “We only ever take the aid requested by our Ukrainian partners, Sunflower Network, the most important being the vehicles themselves.

“The indiscriminate destruction of towns, villages, roads and basic infrastructure means that there’s an urgent need for 4x4s to help with the delivery of care packages and civilian evacuations. Many – especially the elderly – do not want to leave their homes and possessions and choose to stay, despite the danger.”

The convoy therefore made their way to the Polish border with Ukraine in 4 days, driving through the day and resting at night, and spent one final day in Poland collecting additional aid to transport across the border. 

After a 5-hour wait to cross the border, the group drove to their handover point to meet with their partners. There, they met the Ukrainian drivers who were taking the vehicles on the next leg of their journey. 

As each vehicle had been assigned according to the donor’s wishes to different groups and organisations, the drivers had come from different parts of the country and did not know each other. Although keen to get away in good time to avoid travelling during the curfew, they were equally keen to show their appreciation of the party’s efforts. 

On board the convoy was another special package to be delivered. Children from The Ukrainian School in Cambridge had made brightly coloured guardian angels with messages of support. They asked members of the convoy to ensure they were delivered to Ukrainian volunteers. 

Convoy4Ukraine is now looking for volunteers to assist with the next convoy, which takes place from 16 – 21 September 2024. Whether drivers, fundraisers, or other business support, your skills could help critical aid reach those in need in Ukraine.