Victoria paramedics raise enough money to donate 3 ambulances to war effort in Ukraine
As Melissa Sims and Andrew Mills watched news coverage of the war in Ukraine, they were moved to help.
An urgent call for ambulances and medical supplies flashed across the screen, and they knew they could use their expertise in emergency medicine to help.
"When we were seeing paramedics being attacked and targeted, as well as ambulances being shelled, it kind of struck home for us," Sims said.
As of Tuesday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) estimates there have been 4,966 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, including 2,104 killed and 2,862 injured. However, the OHCHR has said it may be underestimating the number of casualties.
Sims and Mills put together a website, Paramedics 4 Paramedics, and spread the word on social media and through friends to help raise money for an ambulance to donate.
Their initial goal was $20,000, most of which would go toward the purchase of an ambulance in Poland and the rest would go to supplies to fill the rig.
So far they've raised nearly $100,000 — enough for three ambulances, medical supplies and medicines.
"It's incredibly inspiring," Mills said. "It's humbling and it's a little overwhelming, to be honest, but it's a good problem to have."
Sims said people from all over the world have donated to the cause.
"The biggest thing we've heard is that people appreciate that their money is going to directly help those being impacted by this war."
Their knowledge of how an ambulance runs and what it needs to be safe and functional has helped them choose vehicles that will serve Ukrainian paramedics and patients well, Mills said.
"We'd much rather buy three really good ones, spend the time making sure they're well stocked and service ready, than buy four or five medium ones that are going to break down and do more harm than good," he added.
Mills and Sims arrived in Poland this week and have been procuring ambulances and working out the logistics of getting them across the Polish-Ukraine border. Once they arrive at the border, they'll hand the vehicles and supplies off to representatives from the Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital, which has been providing front-line care in Ukraine.
"It's a tough job on the best of days, but to do that work on the front line of a war and to see some of the things that they're seeing," Mills said. "My heart goes out to them, and this is one small thing that we can do, but it's hopefully going to make a difference in people's lives."