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Stantec volunteers in Glasgow package humanitarian aid for Ukrainian families

September 14, 2022

Stantec in the Community Week saw our colleagues in Scotland help families who are suffering from the ongoing war in Ukraine

As they watch the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, people want to help in any way they can—especially when it comes to helping mothers of newborns. When Jackie Crawford of Airdrie, Scotland, came across a news article about one of the first babies born after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, she knew she had to do something. After reading about baby Mia who was born in an underground metro station to a family sheltering from a barrage of bombings, Jackie posted the article along with a plea for donations on social media. The story struck a chord in many hearts. Her post led to hundreds of messages overnight and the launch of Scot Baby Box Appeal.

That’s where our community minded Stantec family comes in. After seeing a call for volunteers from the Scot Baby Box Appeal online, senior transport planner Emma McCallum sprang into action. Emma, who is also Glasgow’s Stantec in the Community (SITC) Week organizer, quickly assembled a team of Stantec volunteers to help people living in war-torn Ukraine.

Commenting on helping with the initiative, Emma said, “What this appeal is doing for those not only in Ukraine, but here in the UK, is fantastic. The team were just planning on helping with their own personal donations, and then literally overnight, they saw this appeal that has since become a movement. When we looked around the clothing area after we had finished, we could see the difference and we all felt accomplished and amazed by what we had done. The fact we could see we made a difference, made our two hours more worthwhile. A few of us have vowed to return in our own spare time.”

Housed in an empty unit at The Forge Shopping Centre in Glasgow, the Appeal collects donations from around 100 drop-off points in surrounding communities. Donations are sent by the truckload in lorries that are sponsored or donated to ‘red zones’ in Ukraine. The Appeal has recently focused its efforts on Vinnytsia, a city in central Ukraine that shelters more than 500,000 displaced people. Since its launch, Scot Baby Box Appeal has sent more than 3,000 baby boxes to families affected by the crisis in Ukraine.

Making its reach far wider to include families and support hospitals in Eastern and Western Ukraine, the Appeal also gives baby boxes and essential items to other organizations sending aid from Scotland. In May, its charity partner in Vinnystia sent the Appeal’s donations into Mariupol via the army. “We adopt a ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ approach,” Jackie said. “In the early days of the Appeal, a group of moms from the island of Barra travelled over three hours on a ferry, then drove over five hours to Glasgow to deliver a van load of aid. It's shown us that, although there are many truly terrible situations in the world, there are so many amazing people out there who want to step-up and do what it takes to provide support to those desperately in need.”

However, as the crisis in Ukraine continues and media coverage becomes less and less frequent, there is a risk of it being perceived as old news and for the public to become desensitized to the Ukrainian people’s suffering. The combination of less media focus and the current cost-of-living crisis in the UK means that the Appeal is facing the challenge of fewer volunteers and fewer food donations. All the while, according to statistics from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as of June 19, 2022, more than 4,500 civilians have died, 304 of them children.

It can be easy to forget that behind all these numbers lie people, Ukrainians with incredible stories of both pain and resilience. But, while volunteering with the Appeal, Emma met an unforgettable young woman. Originally from Vinnyista, Nivenia was an exchange student studying International Politics and Conflict Resolution at Glasgow University in 2021. Upon returning home after her exchange, she was soon invited back to the university to host a talk about Ukraine in February 2022. Nivenia was due to fly back on February 24, 2022, but that day Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, and she couldn’t go back. Now she relies on Jackie, who has since stepped in and sponsored her, for a safe space to stay in Scotland.

“Much like other Ukrainians, February 24 became a turning point in my whole life. Unfortunately, I was supposed to be the one to call my family back in Ukraine while I was in Scotland to warn them that a large-scale invasion has begun,” Nivenia said. “Frankly, I never experienced all the horrific events as well as air alarms by myself, but my family and my beloved ones suffered that, and it brought me a lot of pain and a feeling of guilt for being safe.”

Nivenia was lucky enough to meet many Scottish people who care about what’s happening in Ukraine. “I never expected people to be so generous here with their donations and help. Scotland is welcoming a lot of displaced Ukrainian families and it is a huge relief for me to know that they are in a better place now,” Nivenia continues. “I’m trying to stay optimistic, and I love seeing every picture of Ukrainian moms and their kids with the Preloved Baby Boxes. This is all what truly matters now—real unity and trust in humanity. I’m glad to be a part of Scottish aid initiatives and I hope one day I’ll get a chance to express gratitude on behalf of all Ukrainians.”

Lending a helping hand to this fantastic volunteering effort could not have gone ahead without Emma’s perseverance. Her dedication goes beyond SITC Week—she’s launching an appeal for donations in her local community and will coordinate her community’s donations and then drop them off at The Forge herself. The success of SITC Week hinges on volunteers like Emma and her team, and it’s clear that in the wake of disasters such as Ukraine, it is the communities of kind and generous people going above and beyond that have the power to make a huge positive impact. 

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