Rural superheroes helping Ukrainian families

When we last caught up with FCN supporter Paula Sells in North Wales back in February 2022, she was helping to coordinate an initiative to supply the people of Ukraine with much-needed generators. We covered Paula’s work as part of a feature about FCN volunteers helping the people of Ukraine.

We’ve recently checked in with Paula following the recent breaching of the Kakhovka Dam, which has devastated the country and its people and has increased the need for emergency power in Ukraine.

Since writing our feature, Paula has seen an upsurge in farmers and people in rural communities across the UK providing generators to her cause, with more than 60 generators having now been transported to the people of Ukraine through her initiative.

“The old machines usually come out of the back of sheds and garages where they have been dormant for years, in some instances because the husband has died,” says Paula. “For the widows, these generators seem to embody their loss and stir up past memories. It is tremendously heartening for me to see their joy when I am able to send them progress reports and delivery photos and show that the generators have found new life helping others.”

To transport the generators to Ukraine, Paula has been working with a driver, Vova, from Mariupol – who is now living and working in the UK with his family – as well as Teams For You (T4U), a children’s charity based in Wrexham.

T4U has kindly supported with the cost of the driver’s pay and fuel bills, and Paula has also received support from The Leverhulme Trust and private donations.

Every month the charity van is loaded with generators and aid for Ukraine and transported by Vova. In recognition of his hard work, he has received an award from the Ukraine Minister of Defence (photographed – Vova receiving his award).

The generators sent with Vova either go to a distribution centre in Kiev which documents all aid before allocating them to the volunteer army, or to civilians in eastern Ukraine, close to the frontline near Bakhmut.

One Ukrainian woman receiving a generator said: “Now the whole street can charge their mobile phones”.

Another generator was given to two families with nine children between them who live 4kms from the fighting but had no way of moving out, no power and no money. Vova was able to help relocate them to a safer place and the generator kept the families going during the winter. They were extremely grateful for the support.

The generator donors have provided a rich variety of machines. They range from old generators which have been dormant in the back of garages for years, often stored with petrol in them so major repairs are required, to brand new machines, such as 6 quality generators bought by a vet local to Paula, Trevor Pritchard; and another 6 provided by the Denbigh Rotary Club.

Four consignments of generators have now been sent to Ukraine. Following the publication of our article last year, the RAF in Welshpool have provided two generators, and Paula arranged for a Ukrainian mechanic and his family to collect them and speak with some of the cadets at the same time.

A Liverpudlian, John Hardisty, has sourced, purchased and serviced 20 generators out of his own pocket; and 86-year-old JT Williams in Ruthin has procured and repaired 14 machines free of charge.

“The response has been heart-warming, from Anglesey to Liverpool, and we hope to continue helping for as long as necessary,” says Paula.

(A family in eastern Ukraine receiving a brand new machine from JT Williams, Ruthin)

Paula tells us that one of the mothers in Mariupol she has spoken to whose 1,000 acre farm was seized by Russian soldiers said that her young son always wears either his Spider-Man or Captain America outfits when not in school uniform.

She explained that the child realised that neither the police nor the army could prevent the destruction – so he puts all his faith in his superheroes instead.

This story, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, highlights the power of rural communities in coming together to support others; whether they are local, or facing serious challenges overseas.

It is people like Vova, the donors and the supporters of initiatives such as this who are the true super heroes – ordinary people, thrust into extraordinary circumstances.

We wish Paula continued success in her work helping the people of Ukraine.

If you would like to learn more about this initiative or get involved, Paula can be contacted on: paula@sells.email

Paula and Vova about to load the van with 13 generators, including 6 new machines from Trevor Pritchard the vet, Denbigh.

  • Article written by Alex Phillimore, Head of Communications and Development

Below are photos of some of the individuals who have been supporting this project by providing and repairing generators:

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