Crown Inn medical aid for Ukraine fund hits £16,400

Cameron and Gary Watkins are taking no chances with the precious cargo, with help from Van Aid and JAD Trans Scotland.Cameron and Gary Watkins are taking no chances with the precious cargo, with help from Van Aid and JAD Trans Scotland.
Cameron and Gary Watkins are taking no chances with the precious cargo, with help from Van Aid and JAD Trans Scotland.
In September 2005, Karolina Lukaska and her then boyfriend Arkadiusz decided to move to Biggar to find work.

The couple loved it so much they settled and married here, having two children, Frank (7) and Emily (5).

While Biggar is now home, the couple still have family and friends in Poland and were horrified as they watched their neighbours in Ukraine fleeing for the border – and safety – when Putin’s troops invaded.

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Karolina (37) was so moved that she decided to search online for ways to help and came across a medical aid collection, organised by Cavalry Transport Ltd in Peebles. She appealed to people in Biggar to donate supplies, with a drop off point at Brownlie’s.

Biggar Primary pupils are among those supporting the campaign.Biggar Primary pupils are among those supporting the campaign.
Biggar Primary pupils are among those supporting the campaign.

People generously donated, so much so that Karolina’s boss, Gary Watkins who has owned the Crown Inn for the last 17 years, decided that they should launch their own crowdfunding appeal.

Initially, the target was small – just £750; that was realised in a matter of days and aid was purchased and shipped out to Poland.

So the Crown Inn decided to keep going; the appeal is now sitting at £16,419.

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Gary (56) said: “Last week, we were just shy of £10,000. Then overnight it had climbed to £13,500. It’s gone viral.”

Cameron and Gary set off on Monday.Cameron and Gary set off on Monday.
Cameron and Gary set off on Monday.

In a bid to ensure the money goes to those who desperately need it, Karolina made contact on Facebook with Medics4Medics – a group of Polish paramedics and volunteers who have set up field hospitals on the border.

Karolina, who is now a project manager, said: “The group could not exist without the help of donors and people supporting the action.

“We would like to thank everyone who has so far contributed to the Medics4Medics campaign. The response locally, and further afield, has been overwhelming and money and donations are still coming in.

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“I’d like to thank staff and customers of the Crown Inn, Brownlie’s, Limehouse, the Orchard, Gillespie Centre, Armac Vets, Graeme Pharmacy, Biggar RFC, Biggar Freemasons Lodge, Carnwath Pharmacy and Biggar Primary School, as well as all friends, neighbours and the wider community.

Boxes of goods have been donated by generous locals.Boxes of goods have been donated by generous locals.
Boxes of goods have been donated by generous locals.

“We couldn’t have done this without everyone’s support. It will make such a big difference to Medics4Medics and will save lives too.”

It’s clear speaking to Karolina how passionate she feels about the campaign; and her enthusiasm has helped drive it.

Her boss Gary and his son Cameron (25) have also been incredibly supportive and are now on their way to the field hospital on the Polish border with emergency medical aid.

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That includes four evacuation chairs, an oxygen generator worth £1500, a suction unit to clear airways costing £1200 and 60 disposable suction units, as well as tourniquets, bandages, burn kits, pain killers and basic medical aid.

Gary, who served seven years in the army and then worked as an inspector with Strathclyde Police before taking the reins at the Crown, is no stranger to danger – but is taking no chances with the precious cargo.

He said: “The van, which has been kindly donated by Jim Blaber from JAD Trans Scotland in Airdrie, is clearly marked as carrying humanitarian aid.

“We’ve spent £7000 on emergency medical aid, as well as all the donations, so we want to make sure we get it there safely. The charity Van Aid has helped us deal with customs and plotting the route, as there are some areas in east Germany where right wing groups are attacking convoys – we've been shown how to avoid that.”

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Gary’s son Cameron, who is a ranger at Penicuik House, has been given the week off by his bosses.

Last year, he worked as a lifeguard – so both father and son have first aid training and plan to lend a hand at the field hospital before returning home to Biggar.

They will be heading back to Poland in the coming weeks to take even more supplies out.

Gary added: “The crowdfunder is still running – it’s now been extended to a £20,000 target and it might even topple that.

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“It’s been an incredible community effort and we know, by taking it to the paramedics themselves, that people’s donations won’t be sitting gathering dust in a warehouse.

“The aid donated here in Clydesdale will be getting used on the frontline to help injured Ukrainians.

“We’ll definitely need to make at least one more trip to take all the donations to Medics4Medics.”

As for the difference it will make, Karolina is in little doubt of that.

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She added: “It is only a drop in the ocean but every human life is priceless; we have the opportunity to save at least some lives.”

Donations of goods are still being taken at Brownlie’s and the Crown Inn. The list of goods urgently needed includes conforming bandages,triangular bandages, elasticated support bandages, trauma bandages, bandage scissors, gloves, dressings, burn dressings, haemostatic dressings, chest seal dressings, waterproof tapes, eyewash, first aid kits, thermometers, thermal blankets, gloves, pen torches, tourniquets and clinically validated BP monitors, pulse oximeters and stethoscopes.

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