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4 men, 3 ambulances, 1 mission: Canadian volunteers to deliver medical aid to Ukraine

Click to play video: 'Canadian men donating ambulances and medical supplies to Ukraine' Canadian men donating ambulances and medical supplies to Ukraine
A B.C. man is teaming up with two other Canadians and a man from the UK, working to donate ambulances full of supplies, including the ambulances, to the Ukraine defence effort. Rumina Daya reports – Mar 9, 2022

A Metro Vancouver man is teaming up with two other Canadians and a man from the U.K. to deliver three ambulances loaded with vital medical equipment to war-torn Ukraine.

The three Canadians are all former veterans, while their U.K. colleague is a former medic and current paramedic in Ontario.

“I have two young boys that are seven and five, and they are my priority, but the way I look at it … what if they were my kids in Ukraine right now? What if they were there?” Chris Ketler told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Russian-Ukraine conflict: Children’s hospital destroyed in Mariupol' Russian-Ukraine conflict: Children’s hospital destroyed in Mariupol
Russian-Ukraine conflict: Children’s hospital destroyed in Mariupol – Mar 9, 2022

“What would I do to get over there and help them, and why do we treat other people’s children different?”

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The team has already secured one ambulance, donated fully loaded by the Bristol Ambulance Service, and is working to finalize the purchase of two more by next week.

Read more: Canadians prepare to fight for Ukraine as security and legal concerns swirl

From there, they hope to load them with as much medical gear as possible before driving them to Poland, then across the border into Ukraine.

The ambulances and gear will then be donated to Ukrainian civilian officials.

The biggest challenge is going to be getting those things into the country, that’s the hard part right now, with the big refugee buildup on the borders,” Ketler said.

“What we’re really trying to get them is something that’s operational, that a person can get behind the wheel and take a call. That’s the idea.”

Donated equipment Ketler and his fellow volunteers plan to deliver directly to Ukrainians in need. Submitted

While the men have military backgrounds, Ketler — an Afghanistan veteran and now a Canada Border Services Agency officer — said they don’t intend to get involved in the fighting.

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“Our goal here is to help the civilians, not to fight the Russians,” he said.

“Four people showing up with some rifles isn’t going to win the war. But what we can do is help get people out of there and save lives.”

The team are being supported by in part by Surrey mortgage consultancy Invis, Shimona & Associates, which have matched about $5,000 in donations for the expedition.

Read more: Ukrainian-Canadians eager to volunteer on medical front lines amid Russian invasion

“We knew that Chris and his group are working to procure medical equipment, simple things such as syringes and IV bags along with some of the bigger-ticket items such as ambulances they’re looking to obtain from the UK. We thought it was very worthy cause,” mortgage broker Shawn Pinto said.

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The humanitarian crisis deepens in Ukraine – Mar 9, 2022

“We found this was a good way to put the funds directly to Ukraine, we knew his overheads were very, very low, and he was spending a lot of his own money to cover those.”

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The group is also operating an online fundraiser to help cover their costs.

As the days tick down towards departure, Ketler said he’s had plenty of conversations with friends and family who are supportive of his mission but also concerned about the risk.

Read more: ‘When I am called to serve my country, I will’: Ukrainian in B.C. returns home to fight

The danger is something Ketler says he’s clear-eyed about heading into the conflict zone, but not something that will stop him from going.

“(My boys) need their dad just as much as I need them. Absolutely, it’s terrifying, that’s my greatest fear that these boys will grow up without a father,” he said.

“If you’re not willing to die for your principles, what do you stand for? And there are certain things in this world that are worth the risk. If we can get in there and help even five civilians get out, what is one person?”

With files from Rumina Daya

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