9 September 2023

Call goes out for help to ensure gift packages for Ukrainian kids can take flight

| Claire Sams
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Pamela Burgess has been overwhelmed by the public’s response to her fundraiser for Ukrainian children, and she’s calling for help once again. Photo: Pamela Burgess.

International travel is expensive enough for humans, but the organiser of a fundraiser hoping to send a shipment overseas for a good cause is finding it tough to meet the bill.

Bega Valley Market Place manager Pamela Burgess started a fundraiser for gifts to make sure Ukrainian children can feel the Christmas spirit, even in the middle of a war.

Now she is looking for a transport or logistics company able to help in the next step of sending the donations to Europe.

“We’ve got a local freight company which is going to do the Bega to Sydney leg of it for free, which is great,” she said.

“But we need someone to help us get them [the items] to Europe.

“We knew that it was going to be expensive going internationally, but the quotes that we’ve been getting are just beyond our reach.”

It all started when Ms Burgess put out a call for donations of items.

“The response has just gone off the charts,” she said.

“I knew that there’s a lot of people that live in the community who love to knit and make things, but we’ve just been inundated with things.

“I was thinking there would be 10 or 12 boxes, but I just packed the 24th one yesterday and I’ve got enough stuff here to pack another three boxes and more items coming.”

People from across the Bega Valley have donated items such as beanies, hand-made knitted and crocheted toys, mittens and other items, which are being boxed for transport.

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Each item will come with a note, and a card will be added to each box with information on native Australian animals.

“I’m hoping the teachers can gather the children together and have a bit of a conversation about something nice,” Ms Burgess said.

With a plan to have the packages in Ukraine for Christmas, the hope is to have a company locked in by late September.

“I just want the kids to have at least one day of joy and for these items to put a smile on their faces,” Ms Burgess said.

“They’ve been through hell and they’re still going through it.

“We want them to know that we might be thousands of kilometres away from Ukraine, but we are thinking of you.”

Six stuffed animals and human dolls

One company will take the donated items to Sydney, but help for the next step – sending the packages to Europe – is needed. Photo: Pamela Burgess.

The idea for the fundraiser came to Ms Burgess after a successful call for donations last year for fellow Bega Valley resident Tabitha Bilaniwskyj-Zarins from Tabandy Farm, who has family in Ukraine.

“I think we raised close to $2500 then, if memory recalls, and I knew I wanted to do something again,” she said.

“But with the economy the way it is, and with people really struggling financially, we came up with an alternative where people in Bega could still help.”

Once the care packages make their way to Ukraine, they will be distributed by an organisation named GoCamp Ukraine.

“It’s a non-profit service that operates worldwide,” Ms Burgess said.

“They are currently taking in children that have been displaced from the war.”

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Ms Burgess said the compassion shown by her fellow Bega Valley residents wasn’t a surprise.

“I think so many people got involved because when disaster strikes here, in the Valley, we just look out for each other,” she said.

“There a mindset where even when people are struggling, they’re generous.

“We’re in drought at the moment, and yet they’ve come and supported this effort.”

She said she hoped the arrival of the care packages would lift the Ukrainian children’s spirits.

“I want to give them one day where they don’t think about anything but Christmas,” she said.

“They’re the innocent victims of one man’s war.”

The Bega Valley Market Place is at 158/162 Carp Street in Bega and can be reached at 0414 431 132 or [email protected].

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