Conflict in Ukraine: Cloybank owner heading back to Poland on mercy mission

A businessman who made a mercy run to Poland last month to help refugees fleeing from Ukraine has vowed to return.

John Penman, who owns Cloybank outdoor centre in Banknock, drove a minibus packed full of donated goods to Poland to hand out to those people crossing from the war-torn country.

Now he plans to return on April 19 but this time taking a bigger van and filled with the most urgently needed dried foods and medical supplies.

He said: “Having been out there once it is impossible not to want to go back to help these people more.

John Penman from Cloybank with David Wright, who did the last trip to Poland with him, and Cloybank supervisor Carolanne Cowan

"What we witnessed was horrendous. What you see on television isn’t half as bad as it really is.

"We saw some really horrific sights. There is just so much misery and heartache for those affected.

"There were families getting separated and the sound of the crying children as their dads left was horrible.”

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This time he and friend Danny Longmuir, an ex-firefighter, will do the 3500 round trip but also plan to cross into Ukraine to reach the people in most need.

John added: “We have to help get supplies to these people who need them the most. They are starving and we want to help.”

Their journey will see them drive to Dover to catch a ferry over the Channel and heading for an overnight stay in Brussels, from there they will head to Krakow before heading to the village of Medyka on the Polish-Ukraine border.

"From there we will have our passports checked before travelling into Ukraine to give out all the goods that we will have with us to those in most need,” said John.

“It’s heartbreaking the amount of human suffering that is going on in that country.

"There are elderly people who don’t want to leave their homes but are starving. We’re also going to be taking pet food for their dogs and cats.”

They have already received many donations but still can take more and are looking for dry food, including porridge, rice, pasta and noodles – no tins as they take up to much weight; sleeping bags and bedding; medicines; sanitary products; dry dog and cat food; nappies and wipes; torches and batteries; and powdered baby food.

A fundraiser to cover the cost of the fuel for the trip is taking place at Cloybank on Saturday, April 16.

Music from the 50s to the present day will be from band Oldplay along with Bill Hughes and other guests. The event will run from 6.30pm to 11pm and to book tickets, which are £20 including supper, call 01324 841707.

"If we can cover the cost of the fuel, any money left when we get there, we are hoping to go to a big food warehouse and use it to buy further supplies to hand out.

"The van that we’re taking will allow us to take many more vital supplies this time which is great.

"The generosity of people has totally blown us away. It’s been phenomenal and we are very grateful.”

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