How all of Harrogate seems to supporting Ukraine and doing its bit to help refugees

If the swelling numbers of good-hearted people across the Harrogate district are offering to help the Ukranian refugees out of humanitarian instincts, for one volunteer it’s also a bit personal.

By Graham Chalmers
Friday, 11th March 2022, 4:58 pm
Helping Ukraine - Whitney Vauvelle (middle) with helpers sorting out donations for Ukraine at White Horse Machinery at Hornbeam Park in Harrogate. (Picture Gerard Binks)
Helping Ukraine - Whitney Vauvelle (middle) with helpers sorting out donations for Ukraine at White Horse Machinery at Hornbeam Park in Harrogate. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Before the Russian invasion took place two long weeks ago, Harrogate business woman Whitney Vauvelle was a specialist pilates instructor with her own successful boutique on Cornwall Road in Harrogate.

But this week has seen this mother of twins turn into an aid coordinator after setting up two collection points for donations for refugees in Harrogate.

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The end result is a 40-foot/38 tonnes truck full of baby wipes, bandages, antiseptics, airbeds, toothpaste, blankets and other essential supplies departing for Poland to ease the plight of some of Ukraine's more than two million refugees.

Whitney, whose great grandparents were from Kiev, said she simply felt she had to do something to help.

“I felt called into action to help Ukrainian refugees,” she said. “I’m told my great grandparents raised horses for Czar Nicholas II and my great grandparents on my grandmother’s side came from Poland.

“I believe we have to raise our individual and collective consciousness by following the motto of ‘service above self’.”

American-born but married to a Harrogate man, Whitney has worn many different hats over the years.

After a car accident and spinal fusion surgery, she is now dedicated to health and wellness.

Such has been the inspirational nature of Whitney’s efforts, they have quickly attracted the support of Harrogate Spring Water, Harrogate Ladies College, Harrogate Army Foundation College and a number of business tenants at Hornbeam Park.

And she is working closely with Global Empowerment Mission - a non-profit organization founded in the USA in 2011 as a first responder to global disasters, which is already working on the ground at the Poland-Ukraine border to set up refugee camps.

Whitney’s valued contribution in providing for the war-torn people of Ukraine has been matched by numerous like-minded residents across the district.

Harrogate students back Ukraine

Last weekend saw youngsters from Harrogate Ladies College leading a march in Harrogate to fundraise for the Ukranian Red Cross.

Speaking to the assembled crowd of people from all age groups and political beliefs at the war memorial on Saturday, student Zara Cornwell-Menzies said: “We can’t do everything. We can’t stop what’s happening but we can do our bit.

“It’s not political, it’s humanitarian.

“This is about the thousands of women and children in occupied cities, elderly people in villages without heating and new-born babies in cellars who have never seen the sun.”

Harrogate's Lisa Kos, managing director of Dipididodye, on supporting Ukraine

Meanwhile, Harrogate businesswoman Lisa Kos, managing director of Dipididodye is selling a new Ukranian tie-dye kit including a yellow and blue T-shirt on the company’s Dipididodye website at www.dipididodye.com

The profits will go towards sponsoring a Ukranian family, as part of a Government support scheme.

Harrogate vet donates a day's takings to Ukraine

A Harrogate vet is also calling for businesses to donate to the Ukrainian Appeal - after personally donating the whole of a day’s takings to the British Red Cross Ukraine appeal.

After being upset watching the horrors of the conflict on TV, Bob Partridge, the owner and director of VetDentist decided to do more

He decided there and then to donate the whole of the day’s takings to the British Red Cross Ukraine appeal.

Mr Partridge said: “Many of my team followed suit and made personal donations. We would like to encourage other businesses and Veterinary Practices to do the same. Please put your money where your mouth (or keyboard) is!”

Ripon pub supports Lewis Edwards’ efforts to help Ukraine

Other individual acts of kindness across the Harrogate district include a rock-n-roll bingo and raffle night which will take place on Saturday at Magdalems pub in Ripon at 7.30pm to support Lewis Edwards’ efforts to raise funds for Ukrainian refugees.

The remarkable Lewis is a former Ripon resident who recently managed to flee from Kyiv, the besieged capital city of Ukraine.

After crossing the country’s border to take refuge in Slovakia, he is now asking residents across the Harrogate district for urgent help and support as he continues his journey to safety.

Lewis Edwards, 33, and his partner Tanya Bogdanovska, 30, have been volunteering with Point Camp, a children’s summer camp, in Ukraine for seven years but for the past year, has been working in a school in the capital city teaching English.

How Harrogate's St Robert's Primary School is supporting Ukraine

St Roberts Catholic Primary School in Harrogate held a fundraiser on Friday, with a sale of Ukraine-inspired crafts, some of them created especially by a local parent Catherine Maguire.

“Our aim is not just to raise money, but to show our Ukraian and Eastern European families that we are with them and they are in our thoughts and prayers,” said Catherine.

Miss J Collins, headteacher of St Robert's Catholic Primary School in Harrogate, said: "St Robert's Catholic Primary has lots of children from different countries and especially from Eastern European countries. We want to extend our love and support to our families who have relatives in the Ukraine and nearby countries."

"The children have been writing prayers in school and are really keen to help. Some of the parents have made lots of crafts to sell at a fundraising event in school. It's a small way of letting people know we are trying to help and support in any way we can."

Parent Catherine Maguire said: “Our aim is not just to raise money, but to show our Ukraian and Eastern European families that we are with them and they are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Whitney Vauvelle's amazing support for Ukraine

It’s a sentiment that Whitney Vauvelle wholeheartedly agrees with as she prepares to send her supplies to Poland.

Prior to moving to the UK, she lived in Miami and helped raise money and more than one million dollars of medical supplies for the 1.5 million people who became homeless after the earthquake in Haiti.

She may only have two collection points - at White Horse Machinery on Hornbeam Park Avenue and her own business on Cornwall Road - but her professional background with humanitarian organisations in the USA means she has the right contacts to ensure donations end up in the right place with the right people.

Global Empowerment Mission has secured an 18,000 sq foot warehouse in Poland where the goods will be delivered and then distributed appropriately.

GEM is partnered with the Aerial Recovery Group, which is going back into Ukraine to provide aid at the safehouses and help where they can.

GEM has a track record in moving more efficiently than our governments and largest aid organisations.

Whitney is in direct and constant communication with GEM's founder Michael Capponi, someone she has known for more 25 years thanks partly to her own CV in humanitarian causes.

Whitney added: “As an American with ancestral ties to both the Ukraine and Poland, I feel compelled to help the refugees of Ukraine.

"I’ve felt called into action because I care about people and fundamentally believe that there is so much more that unites us than divides us.

"Ultimately, I believe that people are good but we just get so busy and wrapped up in our daily lives that we don’t connect.

"It is sad that it take a crisis to bring people together and begin to think differently about our communities and neighbours."