Ukraine Tour April 22-27, 2023 – Medical Items & Donated School Bus


"As described earlier, the requirements for the Ukraine are constantly changing. Since we last time came to Ukraine in February 2023, 2 months are gone again, more than ever the hospitals close to the front line are overfilled with wounded patients which need to be treated in an emergency setting."


The shopping list for the aid transport

We get a shopping list via our contact, Galyna Smagina from the public organization Automaidan Kharkiv, from hospitals close to the frontlines: Central venous Catheters, sizes 7 Fr and 8 Fr. Blood replacement fluids such as Gelaspan, Sterofundin. Arterenol 25mg or 1mg. Hemostatic supplies, Wound dressings, Quick Clots, Tourniquets. We are planning to supply what we can.

We source the catheters from Baihe Medical, Singapore, a company …
… which produces in Guangzhou, all products CE certified, excellent quality.
But the catheters must be produced long before transport. Time is pressing. 

The Arterenol we get from Phönix Apotheken OHG in Bonn and the Sterofunding we get from Rheinische Compounding GmbH in Bonn. The wound dressings are ordered via the Internet. 

We also bring summer and winter clothes and general humanitarian aid such as pharmaceuticals and general medical supplies, children strollers, power banks, and clothes from various sources, including Menschenfreude e.V.”, and the charity “Wir für Euch.  

In addition, we want to bring a 9-seat minibus to the West-Ukraine. The bus is targeted to be used as a school bus for children. Since the beginning of the war there has been a lack of people transport vehicles in Ukraine. Not only buildings but also vehicles were damaged. Or they were taken somewhere else for other purposes. 

We have chosen a Ford Transit minibus. Year of construction 2004, 9 seats, TÜV new, accident-free.

Preparations for the Ukraine aid

The preparation phase is a bit more complicated this time. The catheters are manufactured in Guangzhou, China, according to our purchasing list.

It is a logistical challenge to carefully select CE marked material for timely production, sterilization, shipment, and courier service including the border customs control procedures.

The staff of Baihe Medical, Singapore around the leadership of Jack Lai from Guangzhou coordinates the necessary steps.
Jack Lai and Arman Tavakkol visit Bonn on April 14 personally …
to make sure everything in the collaboration goes smoothly as planned.

The catheters are ordered on 8 March, production till April 8, going on the flight on April 13, arrival in Frankfurt on April 14, transport to Düsseldorf on April 15, arriving in Bonn on April 18 after picking the custom invoice up at Hartrodt Deutschland Logistics company in Ratingen, paying the customs invoice at Airport customs and loading the goods at Swissport. 

Purchase of the 9-seater as a school bus

The purchase of the 9-Seater mini-bus is a different kind of challenge. The promise of 2 years Tüv and several items to be fixed is part of the contract. When the car was delivered the Tüv is indeed documented for 2 years. As usual, we let the car undergo a second opinion check by a trusted garage known by us, Car Impuls in Bonn. Unexpectedly, however, the car is found not to be safe to drive, with a long list of things to be repaired.  

I am wondering if we are all over sudden in a fantasy movie. Without finger pointing and without trying to explain here what happened (Murphy’s law I guess…), there are very unusual entanglements, unbelievable episodes worth a long evening storytelling, an experience like a roller-coaster ride. After several rounds of back and forth involving the car trader, the repairing garage, the second opinion car garage, an independent consultant expert, the Tüv, and our tour coordinators, the issues at hand finally get settled, the car is delivered in a better condition, nicely repaired, without additional charges to the Menschenfreude eV charity beyond the contract. Still in time for the tour. And with fully valid Tüv blessing. There are several learning lessons on the way for us technical car laymen to become grown-ups, on how to obtain a suitable and safe car for export at a reasonable price. On the way, some apparent heros become villains, and some perceived villains step up to be heros. After all: Thanks to God’s blessings for this tour: There are people willing to go an extra mile and help to get things resolved, from all angles. This is charity as well. And Tüv was part of it. Thank you!

On the way to Ukraine

After weeks of intense preparation, we are loading the tour transporters at Tabea, Swisstal with some helpers of Menschenfreude eV. Our tour crew involves Daniel Fuβy, Graeme David Clements and his son Michael, Jochem Savelsberg, and Matthias Straub.  

The Tour Line up

We bring 750 sets of central venous catheters, wound dressings, Sterofundin (300 units). Arterenol 25 units 25mg/25ml. A 9-seat transporter. Humanitarian aid. Our tour convoy includes 1 Mercedes Sprinter (1 ton load) plus trailer (1 ton load), Volvo XC90 plus trailer (1 ton load), and the 9-seat Transporter (with humanitarian goods).  

On April 22 we meet at 07:30. After a short briefing we take the usual way towards A59, A3 south and from Limburg into the mountains via Kassel area towards Krakow in Poland.

An uneventful ride on a Saturday morning in beautiful sunshine, once interrupted by a fully blocked Autobahn Road before Bautzen costing us more than 1 hr waiting time but we still arrived in Krakow in a reasonable timeframe 

At the border

On April 23 we depart early heading for the border crossing. Thanks to an upfront border crossing customs application via a polish NGO, we were allowed to proceed without any further delay to the polish customs after we took the liberty to pass the long line of transporters bringing commercial goods. From the NGO we got some ID numbers for the application process to print out and to be put in front of our windshields to show the humanitarian aid purpose of our visit, and to defend our unconventional moves.  

Processing at the polish site went smoothly. We have some papers for the Ukrainian site which were shared by our Caritas friends from one of our destination cities upfront with the customs, which helped us to get processed quickly (thank you, Maryana!). The whole process of passing military border control, customs processing, passport controls and transporter inspections on both sites took about 1.5 hrs. No comparison to the 9 hrs it took in December last year to enter the Ukraine.   

First deliveries

In the afternoon of April 23 we still have time to unload …
… the catheters, infusions, medicines and dressings intended for Kharkiv and other contributions to the charity.

On April 24 we meet the receiving people from the city council of one of the target cities responsible for childcare in the region. That’s the department our 9-seat transporter is meant for: To help bringing children to school, children from families in trouble, children in need to be picked up and to be transported to school and elsewhere.

The 9-seater is appreciated by the children and the coordinators. They take a seat, enjoy discovering their new car.
The car keys are given from our driver to the Ukrainian future driver and the papers are transferred.

Over lunch we hear a little more about the situation of some families in need for whom the 9-seat van will be a blessing in the future: Parents with inability to take care of their children have demands for medical treatment and psychological treatment to stabilize, the war is a particularly stressful situation for children. Not an easy task for the dedicated people from the city council given the rough circumstances during the war with all challenges around it. 

We are glad to have the opportunity to help a little by bringing the minibus. It arrived at a destination in need

Infrastructural challenges

We are invited to face some challenges of the local fire department in the target city. We see a lot of broken fire trucks, some needing replacement parts, others not doing their job at all. The great problems of the unit during the war to secure th

We are invited to face some of the challenges of the local fire fighter brigade department in the target city. We see many malfunctional firefighter engine vehicles, some in need of spare parts, some not fulfilling their task at all. We are witnessing some of the big issues in the attempts to secure the population as the war goes on and on. A big financial and logistical challenge for the local community.  

Not sure if this is our area to help, before we get ourselves engaged this requires a lot more insight into the regional plans for population security and insight into the overall general situation. To me it raises once more questions on efficient fundraising strategies for larger, more demanding projects. I wonder, when a wish list becomes a distraction from the basic idea of charity: To provide help for those who cannot help themselves. Thoughts are coming up on other construction places such as orphan children in Rwanda, people living on trash mountains in Romania. At times war distracts our focus. The goals get blurry. The money can only be spent once. 

The streets are seriously damaged beyond comprehension, bulldozers are needed, street repair machinery, infrastructure maintenance is basically non-existent during these times.

But the impression you get is that the focus is on the basic human needs, to end the war, nothing else!

On the way to the second destination

After lunch we depart for our next destination, moving slowly on small streets with big holes we try to drive around, not always successful, fearing for our tires, wheels, trailer material and the load still in the transporter. No wonder one of the fire trucks has a broken wheel steering tie rod, unrepairable locally because of missing supplies.   

We are blessed to arrive without issues and check into a local hotel. On the next morning we are driving to a charity to unload the remainder of the donations.

We see an overloaded warehouse targeted to serve city charity matters and the front line with charity goods. We receive a big smile and a sincere thank you on behalf of those in need,…
… but we also sense a big worry as they already have so many clothes to be processed, the former need is apparently addressed already.

While we in contrast are happy to have the next milestone of our charity mission completed. Hm. 

In the afternoon we are invited to enjoy a barbecue organized by a local family. We enjoy the outstanding hospitality of Lena and Oleg with kids and dog, Dima, Babushka, Dima2, etc.

With every tour we see new shades of this beautiful country and its brave people, another encouragement to come back and stay involved

On the way back

We get up early in the morning and leave for the border, not sure how much waiting time we would face on this occasion. On the way in we had a defense strategy to cross the border quickly. No special treatment to be expected this time. Let’s see if we can make good progress. 

Today it’s raining, raining, raining. We see how much we were blessed with nice weather for our barbecue yesterday.  When we arrive at the local military control post close to the border crossing, we are starting to re-train our patience with waiting, from 09:55 CEST onwards. I still remember the 9 hours on the way out in December 2022… 

After some 30 min waiting exercise (am not so good at this), I ask the local coordinator from our charity in the target city via WhatsApp: “Good morning. We are back close to the border. Now in a long line before military control. Anything we can do to speed this up?” Her answer: “Wait.” Few minutes later a soldier approaching us, saying: “Two cars to Poland?” I say “Yes!” “Go!”. Off we are. Your network is your net worth. Very true at times. Maryana becomes our hero of the day.  

We are in line now. Good progress we think. It’s now 11:15 CEST.  But we realize soon that the line is not going very quick. In fact, not at all it seems. The car lines go a little faster, but we must respect the rules. We are 400m away from the restrooms. I remember, there you need polish or Ukrainian coins, but 50euro cents also fit the automat. Experience from the past. We got enough coins this time. 

We joke: “The only thing missing in this Sprinter is a coffee machine”. I say: “I will think about a solution. But it looks like there are a lot of coffee machines in the customs clearance offices.”  

Now we are in the line of Transporters with trailers on the Ukrainian border crossing. After a while we let the Volvo line up in the car section. This goes faster. Meanwhile it’s 12:06 CEST.   

Then I go to the border military post and inquire about a solution to the problem of urgency. I say: “..I know where it is…”. He goes “Go back to the car” (in Ukrainian I think). I reply: “I don’t speak your language”. He gets someone else also with a machine gun who is better at English. He goes: “I’m sorry but this is polish territory after the gate entry. So, you must wait in your car. That’s the rules”. Then he adds: “But it’s going further soon.” I say “thanks”, what else to say to someone with a gun, urgency or not. In the late afternoon we pass the Ukraine border gate control and a big plate “Have a nice trip.” Guess what I thought at that point? Then also the polish border control. I finally was able to spend my coins.  

After we had to give the passport and car papers about 6 times away, finally we need to do the truck scan on the polish side. Also, with passport control and car papers to control the chassis number.  

Our nerves are on edge at about 17:15 CEST. “Money for nothing…I want my MTV”, the song of the Dire Straits comes up in my mind. But, after all we passed the exams and are out. So, we were busy for more than 6 hrs (Volvo 3.5 hrs) clearing an empty European car and trailer with European drivers into a European country. Remarkable. The rest of the journey to the hotel in Krakow is characterized by the usual bad roads, an app which at times surprisingly selects the most damaged roads, but nothing spectacular. Nice sunset and time for me to write up a few things.  

Final thoughts

Another trip is almost completed. I hope the distribution of the medicine and the catheters to Kharkiv goes quick and the 9-seater gets into function quickly. Ultimately, the efforts are worth it, I believe. But we need to stay engaged to find better ways, set priorities and boundaries for ourselves, and challenge the status quo, everywhere.  

The local demands and needs mainly guided our tour, this time as well. This was good, but for sure further progress is needed. It’s remarkable that after the 4th tour into the Ukraine we still at times have seen us to leave happier than those who have received our donations, because we again delivered something they did not need (anymore). We might have to think about how to turn abundantly available resources (like clothes) into money. In our country.  

We are experiencing the limitations of our capabilities to help more, also because we are currently not able to engage in consistent fundraising strategies to help end larger issues. Dreams remain unrealized, the implementation is lacking. With which businesses do we need to engage with, with which partners can we align, and which government funds we could tap into? At times we appear to think that being on the way is the destination, and we are happy with it.  

Medical Goods arrived in Kharkiv (Tour Update May 7)

Meanwhile the medical goods have been transported to Kharkiv and have arrived at the local Charity Automaidan Kharkiv Galyna Smagina from the public organization sent us photos and their statements. Now the organization will ship the material to the local medical stabilization areas close to the frontlines in Donezk and Lugansk. We are thankful for all donations received to make this possible. This makes a difference for those who desperately need medical help at these locations. 

Arrival of our medical goods…
… in Kharkiv. May 7, 2023…
… along with greetings and thanks. We also thank you for the feedback.

(Dr. Matthias Straub) 

Further information about Ukraine Aid from Menschenfreude e.V. 


Donation account: Recipient: Menschenfreude e.V.
IBAN: DE41 6609 0800 0006 6116 99 

Oder per Paypal-Spende: 
Stichwort: Ukraine

Or via the donate button:


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