A London, Ont., registered nurse has returned home after providing aid at the Poland-Ukraine border.
Brandon Duncan, who works at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has been a registered nurse for 14 years.
He began working for the Canadian Medical Assistance Team (CMAT) in 2010 after Haiti’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
“I’ve always been really drawn to disaster-relief situations and going to places (where) they don’t have a lot of resources,” he said.
Duncan sits on the Board of Directors with CMAT and when the Ukraine evasion escalated, he says the board held a series of meetings to see how they might provide help.
“We don’t have any warzone experience or equipment, or even policy in place to do that,” he said.
“But after quite a few discussions, we decided that CMAT could get involved and offer our services to the refugees.”
And so, on March 4, Duncan and a colleague flew to Poland and travelled to several border cities.
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“We then started to cross into Ukraine (and) we also went into Lviv a couple of times. We were able to access our way into Lviv to get medication to hospitals, so we started doing drug runs for people and getting the supplies where they needed to go,” he recalled.
He says he and his colleague did not go too far east in Ukraine, where active bombing was taking place.
“In Lviv, there were lots of (people) still living their day to day lives, but everybody was definitely on edge,” Duncan said. “I spent a couple of nights in Lviv and we did end up having to spend some nights in the bomb shelter because the air alarms were going off.”
He says the atmosphere was scary but the people were nice.
“The people around us… this wasn’t their first time, and they knew the drill and it was very reassuring from them, (which) gave us a bit of comfort.”
“The people in Ukraine and Poland are amazing and so resilient,” Duncan said, reflecting on his experience.
“I saw lines of grandmas making hundreds of thousands of sandwiches for the people of Ukraine every single night (at) these borders … It’s amazing that the world can come together.”
The London nurse recommends Canadians to consider donating money to relief efforts rather than donating materials such as blankets and clothing, which he says often sit in shipping containers for long periods of time and sometimes get tossed out.
Duncan says Canadians wanting to donate blankets and clothing should wait until refugees arrive in Canada.
“These people are going to arrive with just a suitcase. This is where those supplies would be best optimized.”
Duncan also provided aid in the Philippines after its 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2013.
Travelling to the Poland-Ukraine border was his third mission with CMAT.
-With files from 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham, Mike Stubbs and Maya Reid