Support like first investment in a start-up
So Opencast committed to providing the first serious investment in SafeDrop, donating £10,000 a month for three months. What we have provided has in some ways been like a first investment in a start-up.
Because of the faith we showed, Safe Drop was then able to go to Siemens, who donated another £100,000. Combined, this has supported the base in Przemyśl, as well as vans and a translation service in Warsaw.
Our ‘seed’ support has provided a platform for SafeDrop to do more good work.
What then of the UK government’s response? It has a visa processing centre – but it’s a 10-hour round trip from Przemyśl. Our government has also been slow with its Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme, and the scheme itself is very complex.
Responding to this, the SafeDrop effort now includes a matching service, with one element matching people so they can find a place to stay in the UK, and another making contact with Ukrainians with UK contacts. In April SafeDrop matched the first Ukrainian refugee family with hosts in the North East (pictured) and they are now housed in South Shields.
In the UK, Tom Warburton, a former acting chief executive of Newcastle City Council, came on board to help raise funds for a SafeDrop minibus. When we’d raised the funds, Tom went to Eden Valley commercial van company in Penrith to buy the minibus.
The owner of Eden Valley gave us a discount because, coincidentally, his wife was from Odessa. We filled the van with publicly donated medical aid requested by those on the frontline, then Tom drove the van to Ukraine.