By Megan Evans, News Editor
Five students from the University of Bristol have spent time on the border of Poland and Ukraine, providing aid to refugees and creating a documentary to raise relief money.
A group of Bristol University students have recently returned from providing humanitarian aid in refugee camps in the Przemyśl region of Poland.
Four of the students, Brusk Erce, Carlos Shanka Boissy Diaz, Omar Hamed Beato, and Soma Kudo, volunteered on the border for five days from Monday 14 – Friday 18 March. Once there, the group worked in the kitchens of refugee camps at the Medyka border to provide incoming refugees with fulfilling meals.
Matthew Collins, who is fluent in Russian, flew out three days before his fellow students, volunteering to translate interviews for documentary teams.
Epigram spoke to Carlos about his experience. When asked about the group’s motivations, he described a sense of ‘frustration’ at the ‘growing humanitarian crisis.’
‘We felt that something needed to be done, that we needed to do something with our own hands. We decided to prioritise helping others in person; we saw the opportunity and we took the risk.’
Discussing the experience, Carlos explained: ‘You have to be emotionally resilient.’ The group met a great number of people who had lost family and loved ones, or faced the destruction of homes and livelihoods. After long journeys to the border, people faced a twelve-hour wait to enter Poland, and spent an average of three days in refugee camps before finding longer-term accommodation.
However, in the face of crisis and conflict, ‘the atmosphere was one of solidarity.’ Carlos recounted the kindness of three young Ukrainian girls, who shared bars of chocolate with the volunteers, and the humanitarianism of people from across the globe coming together to provide relief work for those forced to flee conflict.
Members of the group also gathered footage of the scene at the border, with the aim of making a documentary to fundraise for humanitarian aid. One student, Omar, interviewed a number of refugees as they crossed into Poland with the aim of sharing their stories.
Having now returned to Bristol, the group is re-joining their larger team of volunteers to plan events and projects in support of Ukraine. They are currently taking donations for ‘Sunflowers for Ukraine,’ the country’s national flower, the proceeds of which will go to the Disasters Emergency Committee.
Featured Image: Bristol students pictured with the Ukranian refugees who inspired their 'Sunflowers for Ukraine' fundraiser.Epigram / Carlos Shanka Boissy Diaz
You can donate to the group's fundraiser here.