We have all been horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
More than two million people have so far been forced to leave their homes to escape the war. The number of people is increasing day by day - current estimates are that it will reach at least five million.
Now alone as their husbands and fathers stay to defend their country, women and children are currently in queues of up to 24 hours in the freezing cold just to cross the Ukraine border into Poland. They have travelled hundreds of miles, leaving behind their lives, jobs, hobbies, dogs and even horses to get to border checkpoints with an uncertain future.
It is time to take action, for ordinary people to help simply because they can. To take a little time out of our lives and do something that may affect generations to come.
We are bringing together people in the equestrian world, many of whom have access to large lorries/horseboxes and a practical attitude to overcoming obstacles, to travel to the Poland/Ukraine border.
We are planning to assist the displaced families arriving on the Polish border in the following ways:
First of all, on the outward journey, we will transport donated non-perishable goods, including blankets, clothes and first aid equipment, in our convoy of horseboxes to those in need arriving at the border.
Once unloaded at the Polish border, we can use the horseboxes to transport families through Europe to places of refuge or sponsors' homes in relative warmth and comfort. These horseboxes have fantastic living areas for people, with beds, heating, cooking facilities and bathrooms - riders stay in them for weeks at a time!
We can collect families from the border and take them anywhere in Europe as they have free movement. We are currently in discussions with owners of various holiday homes in France and Portugal.
We will be able to bring back to the UK those people who can successfully navigate the UK family visa application, and finally we hope that the UK will relax to its rules to allow us to bring back displaced Ukrainian women and children who may not necessarily have a direct relation within the UK.
In the six hours since Stephen's first Facebook post, we have received:
- Offers of accommodation within UK homes for five families,
- Calls from Ukrainian/UK nationals trying to get their families out of Ukraine,
- Three 18 tonne vehicles and five drivers, and
- A host of media and administrative support.
We know many people who will likely have access to similar accommodation and transport within the equestrian community; people with a can-do attitude who take on challenges that appear beyond them every day. We need your help!
The plan is to identify as many houses and rooms as possible, initially in European countries, and hopefully eventually in the UK. We are organising a convoy of horse lorries that can do the miles to shelter and transport these vulnerable women and children to a place of refuge.
If you can help in any way with transport, accommodation (whether long-term or at stop-over points along the way for the horseboxes), translation or logistics then please do get in touch!
We also know many people would like to get involved, who are just not set up to help on a logistical basis but who would love to help with a donation. The fuel costs will add up quickly, so anything you can give is greatly appreciated.
Any donations made will be used to pay for diesel for the horseboxes, tolls, ferry crossings, food and any necessary clothing, first aid and personal hygiene supplies required for the refugees. Any excess will be given to the Disastors Emergency Committee - Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
There is no time like the present. People and their children are walking, freezing and hiding from shelling. We do something great that affects generations to come.
We plan to set off for the Polish-Ukraine Border Crossing at Horczowa-Krakovets as soon as practically possible.