It was a pleasure speaking with Algarve resident and Poor Man’s Band percussion player, Euan Pyper, who has made a huge difference to Ukrainian families this Christmas by undertaking an epic journey to supply aid and transport refugees.
For a bit of background, Euan told The Portugal News that “Yvonne and I came to the Algarve in 2014 as permanent residents once we concluded our business life but prior to that we had actually had a house as a holiday home that was built in 1998, so we have been coming out on a regular basis since then.”
Euan added that “It was then in 2016, that I, fortunately, got involved with Poor Man’s Band, which was wonderful, and since losing Yvonne last year, they have all proved to be very supportive and helped me through a pretty hard time so I am grateful to them.”
When asked why he decided to dedicate his time to OMWUA, Euan explained “I sadly lost my wife, Yvonne back in April and she was a very special lady in many respects and always put others first. As Christmas was on the horizon, I knew it was going to be too emotional for me and so I decided I needed to get away and do something useful, which is how this journey came about.” I, therefore, dedicated the journey, with all that has been involved, in memory of Yvonne, who would have certainly approved.”
Debbie, wife of Gary Steel, lead singer for the Poor Man’s Band, told The Portugal News that “the Poor Man’s Band has been doing fundraisers, with the recent ones being with a view to supporting Ukrainian refugees.” Adding that “We looked forward to receiving his daily updates through WhatsApp which were very informative. It was good to know he got through another day and continued to do this great work for these people that really needed this help.”
Euan added that “I have been involved in a lot of charity events, when I was the captain of Serra de Monchique Golf Club and as a band, we wanted to raise some money for Ukrainians when the war started and have been successful so we are continuing this by doing a gig on the 18th of February at 7pm at The Holiday Inn, Armação de Pêra. The tickets cost 40 euros of which a portion will be donated to Ukrainian refugees with other fundraising on the night. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Angela Broad firstname.lastname@example.org or Debbie Steel email@example.com
Euan came across the group OMWUA which is a community of volunteers that drive to and from the Ukrainian border with relief supplies and return back with refugees, who they house via their partner organisations. “I asked to volunteer and they welcomed me with open arms. They then set up a WhatsApp support group in the event I needed any advice during each of the journeys.”
From the 17th to 31st of December, Euan drove just over 11,000 kms over 15 days in which he went to Medyka on the Polish/Ukrainian border via Holland, delivering medical supplies, rechargeable battery lights and baby packs to support the refugee efforts there. Additionally, he drove a returning Ukrainian family from Holland to the border with more supplies and picked up another two families and drove them back to Holland.
When asked about his experience of driving such long distances, Euan explained that “I didn’t find the driving as difficult. Thanks to the adrenaline, the emotional aspects involved and the motivation keeps you going. In many ways, you have a purpose right from the start.”
He also described in detail each journey, “The first family was of a mother, her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend from Holland, where they were living on a refugee boat since the war started and I drove them to Ukraine to see their father after seven months. They also wanted to help him distribute the aid that we had collected, which was directed at children in the shelters in Lviv.”
“Dropping them off was emotional; they were foot traffic so they ploughed through the snow, dragging their suitcases behind them and were then picked up by the father at the other side.”
Euan then told The Portugal News that he picked up another family, which consisted of a mother, a father, a 31-year-old daughter and their dog. He joked that he had been “wound up a bit that it was going to be a Great Dane so he was relieved that it was a much smaller dog, who was very well behaved.” Halfway through the journey, we stayed overnight at a hotel in Germany which the family were very grateful for. This was Euan’s Christmas present to the family. The father didn’t sleep particularly well that night because he was suffering from PTSD and had woken up thinking that he was hearing explosions so he was in a pretty bad state. “We continued the next day and after travelling for 2 days, to a refugee centre in Utrecht and handing the family over, I returned to my car and found a bottle of Ukrainian beer left on the driver’s seat which was courtesy of the father, just as a little thank-you and again was quite emotional.”
“The following day the car was then loaded up with more aid and I headed off again from Holland over another two days and returned with the last family. They had not long crossed the border and were in a pretty bad way after witnessing missiles landing close to them and buildings being blown up. The family included the grandmother, who had had a stroke in 2014 and was clearly frightened, her 42-year-old daughter who was also very frightened from the start and her 9-year-old son, who suffered with car sickness for the first day of the journey. It was Debbie’s daughter who suggested the tip of massaging part of your hand, where you can actually stop motion sickness and it worked for the remainder of the journey.”
Euan gave a special thank-you to his family and friends, who had been in the background and supporting him. “I was an army officer in the British Army many years ago and was used to having to think on my feet. Many things happened on the trip where I felt my experience from the past kicking in. I received a lot of support from my buddies from Welbeck College throughout the 15 days.”
To summarise his feelings at the end of this trip, Euan affirmed that “The families are in a far better place now and they now feel safe, so that is really the satisfaction you get from doing something like this.”
If you would like to support Euan Pyper’s incredible effort you can do so by donating to help OMWUA make an impact. Please make a donation to Stichting On My Way’s official charity: STICHTING ON MY WAY UA NL13 ABNA 0112 6429 34 with the BIC: ABNANL2A or alternatively via PayPal: https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=AYV9KQ6FCFGH4. Additionally, for more information, please visit https://www.omwua.nl/en.
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