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James and Mike 4

Preston Baker’s New Homes, Land and Planning Director James Baker and close friend Mike Harding take action to help Ukrainians

James and friend Mike moved to help Ukrainians with trips to take aid items and transport refugees fleeing the conflict

Originally posted: 26th April, 2022

James and Mike heading up mission to travel to the Ukrainian/Polish border to take aid to Ukrainians and bring visa-approved refugees to the UK

James Baker, Preston Baker’s New Homes, Land and Planning Director, and close friend Mike Harding are heading up a mission to travel to the Ukrainian/Polish border to take aid to Ukrainians and bring visa-approved refugees to the UK.

James and friend Mike, Commercial Marketing Manager at Trinnovo Group, are raising money to fund aid trips to Ukraine and have so far raised over £7,000, made two 4,000-mile round aid missions, and successfully transported 14 refugees and three pets to awaiting sponsors.

"Shocked and horrified"

“We’re shocked and horrified by the unfolding conflict in Ukraine,” said James, adding: “So much so that we’ve decided we cannot just sit by and watch this happen, and feel moved to help as best we can.”

So, the two friends decided to purchase a 16-seater minibus out of their own savings, drive to the Ukrainian/Polish border to deliver essential supplies to the refugees arriving there from cities and towns within Ukraine, and bring back visa-approved refugees to the UK.

Their first journey started on Monday 28th March, when they travelled to the Ukrainian/Polish border together to deliver supplies and collect two refugee families in Poland and drive them to safe accommodation in the Netherlands.

The group comprised of two mothers with three children as young as nine months old. The fathers and husbands have remained in Ukraine, fighting on the front lines of the conflict with Russia. This family had been sponsored with a flat for a year from a contact and had no more belongings than a mere suitcase each. The need to escape to safety had trumped their desire to bring any more possessions than they could carry in these bags.

The duo then set off again on Wednesday 20th April after another aid collection, with a mini-bus full of supplies, this time destined for an aid centre within Ukraine itself. They drove into the city of Lviv, where the train station had been the target of rocket attacks a few days earlier, and where inhabitants were helping to house fleeing refugees from the eastern parts of the country. With their consignment unloaded at a secret location outside the city, they met up with a mother and child whose father and husband’s company had turned its efforts to producing body armour for the Ukrainian armed forces. With these two safely on board, they drove back into Poland, spending the night in Warsaw, where they met four more mother and child pairs, and their three dogs.

Exhausted families

Driving through the day on Saturday 23rd April, they arrived in Dusseldorf late at night to break the journey for these exhausted families. They set off again the following morning for Hook of Holland, and the return ferry home. Unfortunately, and due to the new process for bringing pets into the UK, the government process delayed the group for another two days, until enough pressure could be exerted on the Animal & Plant Health Agency (part of DEFRA), to grant licenses for the dogs in the boys’ care.

The raised funds had long-since dwindled by this point, and credit cards were taking the brunt of increased hotel, food and fuel costs.

“We want to do these trips as regularly as we can, but obviously there is a cost involved and so we are doing as much fundraising as we can,” said Mike. “Ever since I raised the idea with James, we have been throwing ourselves into the fundraising effort.”

"People so generous"

He added: “People have been so generous with donations of both money and supplies and we feel very humbled by the support we have received, and the gratitude and support shown to us during our aid trips.

“We've been inspired by the bravery of the Ukrainian people since the beginning of this despicable invasion, and moved by their suffering. We want to do something about it, and we hope there are other people out there who will too.

“We’re taking emergency supplies that include tinned, non-perishable or long-life foods, toiletries, baby wipes and nappies, but where we’ve really struggled is with anything more than basic medical supplies.”

Help needed

“We're asking local communities and businesses for contributions of these goods, or of the funds for us to purchase them. You can find our JustGiving page here:

“We know money is tight for a lot of people right now with the rising cost of living, but if you can spare anything to help purchase aid it would be greatly appreciated and thank you for the generosity of those that have already donated.”

They are also co-ordinating donations of items in person.

Pictures show James and Mike during their aid trips to Ukraine.

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