A group of friends, mainly from Greystones, Co Wicklow, are embarking on a humanitarian mission to Ukraine later this month to deliver sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and medical supplies to the Ukrainian army.
Eight men will drive three SUVs to the UK where they will connect with a convoy of 25 more vehicles loaded with medical supplies, before heading via the Netherlands, Germany and Poland to Ukraine.
The 3,500km trip is being organised by Sammy Byrne, founder of the philanthropic organisation What About Us, and Noel Shannon, CEO of Shannon Energy.
They have brought together a team of friends to drive and deliver the SUVs to Ukraine – a journey that will involve taking the vehicles deep within a country still suffering daily attacks from Russian Forces, including drone bombs.
The average life of a four-wheel drive on the frontline in the battle to repel invading Russian forces is fewer than six months, a figure Mr Byrne says underscores the urgency of support for the beleaguered country.
SUVs are typically used for field hospital work, bringing injured soldiers from the war zone, so he said it was appropriate that the vehicles are filled with medical supplies collected by his partner Finola Harrington, who is a nurse at St Vincent’s hospital in Dublin.
The hospital has been generous in donating medical supplies, including used crutches and wheelchairs, he said.
The other drivers are Daragh Cafferky, Michael O’Brien, Paul Ledwidge, Frank Donnelly, Cruiser O’Grady and Colm O’Cuilleanain.
They plan to take turns driving, meeting up with members of Jeeps for Peace, an English charity that will deliver the 25 SUVs. From England they will travel in convoy across northern Europe, spending a day driving inside Ukraine. For security reasons they do not want to release details of their route into Ukraine, or where the final hand over of vehicles is scheduled to take place.
The team is also hoping to raise €20,000 in donations through a GoFundMe page gofundme.com/f/fund-buy-and-deliver-three-4x4s-to-ukraine plus €5,000 in corporate sponsorship.
Once in Ukraine, each vehicle will be modified before being sent to the front-line. There they will be used to deliver critical supplies of food and medicines, evacuate civilians in danger and retrieve wounded soldiers. “Each vehicle directly saves lives and is invaluable,” said Mr Byrne.
He said Jeeps for Peace in the UK has already delivered more than 100 four-wheel drive vehicles and four ambulances to Ukraine.
Mr Byrne said his own organisation, What About Us, is using its platform and projects “to highlight the causes and consequences of war”. It uses music and the arts “to build bridges of peace and love between communities at war and in conflict”.
In the past Mr Byrne and his friends have put together missions to the Republic of Cameroon in Central Africa, where they delivered medical and educational supplies, built rooms at a local school and helped provide running water.