Providing humanitarian support to Ukraine (and how you can too)
A big part of our company vision is to be a positive force for change. And although it’s going to be a gradual journey, it’s a key focus for us, and we have been doing lots in this area to make some good progress so far.
Our Supply Chain and Technical Services Director, Jim Gouldie, is an extraordinary example of how our people are going above and beyond to support struggling communities and help us to become a positive force for change in our industry.
Together with Hope4, one of our corporate charities, Jim recently travelled to Moldova and Ukraine, to see the impact of the humanitarian crisis first-hand and to understand better what needs to be done to offer support to individuals throughout the on-going war.
Here are his thoughts…
Why did you want to visit Moldova and Ukraine?
When the war broke out in Ukraine in February 22, I don’t think anyone could be anything other than touched by the images we were seeing on our TV screens as millions of refugees tried to escape the bloodshed. At Bidfood we’d seen many remarkable acts of kindness and support from across our depots, and as a Senior Leadership Team we were looking for a charity partner who could work with us to support those in need.
Fortunately, we were able to link up with Chris Lomas at Hope4 and our relationship has gone from strength to strength.
As it has been over a year since that time, media attention on Ukraine has dwindled, but the needs of many has not – and in lots of cases have gotten worse! Fortunately, at Bidfood we have continued to support and send many loads of food over to Hope4, with some subsequently diverted to Turkey following the devastating earthquake there.
I therefore wanted to visit Hope4 to see the amazing work they’re doing, and the impact our donations were having, but also see what more could be done to support Ukraine! Plus, I wanted to raise wider awareness of the humanitarian crisis taking place across Europe, internally, with our customers, suppliers and the industry.
Hope4 not only focuses on supporting the needs of those displaced from Ukraine, but of those in abject poverty in Moldova, and I wanted to see what more we could do. Obviously, I was also keen to visit Ukraine to see for myself the impact of the war there and specifically raise wider awareness of the challenges people face in day to day living in a warzone.
What did your trip involve?
My trip lasted 5 days and was very full on from the minute I arrived to the minute I left – meeting the Ambassadors from Ukraine, Turkey and the UK in Moldova; hosting a Refugee Day for those displaced from Ukraine and visiting an orphanage (both with food supplied by Bidfood); donating a house with Hope4 to a young Moldovan family who were about to be evicted; visiting a winery en route to Ukraine (as we are now listing Freedom wine, where profits go to support those in need in Moldova); visiting a drugs rehabilitation centre; to finally delivering food boxes supplied by Bidfood to Ukrainian villages that were previously occupied by Russian forces and remain on the front line, mostly destroyed and in desperate need.
It was an incredible 5 days and I was humbled by the impact Hope4 are making and the impact of the support we are able to provide.
Why is the work Hope4 are doing important?
Hope4 do what they say on the tin, they offer hope to those in desperate need – be it to victims of sex trafficking, those in utter poverty in Moldova, children who are orphans or have been abandoned by parents as they have no means of supporting them, victims or terrible disasters – both man-made such as the terrible war currently raging in Ukraine or natural ones such as the devastating earthquake in Turkey.
Hope4 do more than deliver hope though, they actually make a life changing impact on a daily basis.
Witnessing this was incredible and humbling, and the fact that Bidfood have done so much to support, at a time where we are in a cost of living crisis and are already supporting many UK charities, makes me very proud.
“At a time of desperate need to support starving families and Ukrainian refugees fleeing the devastation in the homeland, Bidfood has stood up to the challenge of supporting those who have nothing and have continued to do so, even when this devastation is no longer making daily news. We at Hope4 are humbled by the incredible support we get from Bidfood; but we sadly we recognise these challenges are getting worse not better and invite all across the industry from manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and foodservice operators to join with Bidfood and us all to help support one of the largest humanitarian crisis Europe has ever seen”.
Chris Lomas, Hope4
What was a part of your trip which really stood out to you?
As I say, it was a full on event-filled trip… full of quite amazing yet humbling experiences and it’s difficult to pick any single event, so to name a few:
- Meeting the different Ambassadors and feeling the resolution and pain from the Ukraine Embassy as they prepared to commemorate the anniversary of the war, and the losses they have suffered; and then similarly the pain and desperation of the needs in Turkey which is the deadliest natural disaster in modern times: killing over 55,000 people, injuring over 130,000 with approximately 28 million impacted – many of which losing their homes.
- Hosting a refugee day with displaced Ukrainians queueing around the block but equally keen to express their thanks and gratitude for the support
- Seeing an orphanage come to life with the love they feel for those at Hope4 when we visited
- Seeing first-hand the impact the war has had on many in Ukraine on the front line, living amongst devastation, with most unable to move as they were too old
- The smile and wave of an old Ukrainian lady as she loaded up her food box
- The shock when I found myself wandering into a minefield, to find people shouting at me to stop and retrace my footsteps; and similarly at night hearing the air-raid sirens going off on a regular basis, the sounds of gunfire in the distance and understanding the constant fear that people live in for these sorts of events on a daily basis
- Lastly and not least, feeling the emotion of disbelief, shock, and utter relief when Oxanna (a Moldovan mother of four beautiful young boys facing eviction) was told by Chris at Hope4 that they had raised funds to buy her house for her.
All in all it was an emotional ride – full of love and good humour – and something I’d love to do again sometime soon!
How much food has Bidfood provided so far?
To date Bidfood has sent approximately £450K of food, now covering an estimated 130K family meals plus related drinks and treats, as well as a range of wider cash donations, sleeping bags, jackets (for those without shelter in Turkey) and blankets that have been knitted by some of our employees.
Why does this support need to be ongoing?
Whilst the humanitarian crisis no longer makes news headlines, the harsh reality is that many Ukrainians are living in desperate circumstances; often unable to flee the conflict, with a war raging around them or having fled to neighbouring countries which offer very limited support.
Approximately 800K refugees have entered Moldova since the fighting started, with approximately 100K remaining there. Moldova is already one of Europe’s poorest countries with approximately 1 in 4 people living in absolute poverty.
These refugees have little or no means of support and have often been living off savings, but are unable to continue this for much longer and are then faced with a terrible decision – either return to face what remains of their homes in a country at war or seek wider support in whatever way possible.
As the saying goes ‘the mark of a civilised society is how it treats its weakest members’ and at Bidfood I have been humbled and honoured by playing a small part to support our European neighbours at their time of need, and would urge many other organisations to do the same.
How can our industry support Ukraine, now and in the long term?
There are many ways the industry can support Ukraine and particularly the work that Hope4 does.
I would thoroughly recommend people follow Chris at Hope4 on his LinkedIn posts and raise awareness of the plight people face in Ukraine and Moldova and the work Hope4 do.
I hope others do get in touch and review what else can be done to support, and that businesses make time and resources, be that financial or like ourselves by donating food… or simply offering emotional support or opportunities to source Ukrainian products to support their remaining industry.
Many of our customers and suppliers have offered incredible support whilst also using this as a means of clearing excess residual stocks – so it can easily be a win / win situation. And I know Chris will happily support this in terms of recognition and social media posts which is great PR for supporting businesses – even if just for their own teams.
As I was informed by the Ukrainian Ambassador, the longer term outlook for Ukraine looks a real challenge with approximately 16 million people displaced, half or which have left the country and moved across Europe.
Many of these are women and children while the men remain to fight; although when the war eventually finishes, much of the country will need rebuilding with critical infrastructure, homes and businesses destroyed.
Although, the Ambassador was also quick to remind me – these are challenges for another day as the country faces a much more immediate threat and all focus has to be on bringing that to a conclusion.
How do you feel this is part of our wider effort towards becoming a positive force for change?
Over the last few years, I have been privileged to be at forefront of many of Bidfood’s efforts in being a positive force for change, during Covid and in heading up the Planet workstream of our ESG plans.
However, I can’t think of anything better than the relationship we have developed with Hope4, clearly demonstrating the impact we can all make, and I’m truly honoured and humbled to be part of this and working alongside, arm in arm, an organisation such as Hope4.
A huge commendation to Jim and the team at Hope4 for helping to raise awareness of the crisis in Ukraine, and sharing what we can do together as an industry to support refugees and to support Ukraine as the war continues.
Find out more about the fantastic work Hope4 are doing and how to donate here.
Read more about our vision here: Positive force for change | Sustainability | Bidfood UK
Listen to Jim Gouldie talk through his work with Hope4 below:
Check out our related blogs:
- How is Bidfood aiming to be a positive force for change?
- Why you should join us on Springboard’s virtual race to Qatar
- Journey to net zero – where do you start?
- What does Earth Day mean to Bidfood?
- How is Bidfood supporting apprenticeships?
- What I learnt about regenerative farming | Julie Owst
- How to master your sustainability communication online
- 3 reasons why we signed up to the Better Business Act coalition
If you have any questions on what you can do to support Hope4, or would like to partner with us for sending food out to Moldova and Ukraine, please feel free to contact Jim directly: firstname.lastname@example.org