Farmers from Waterford, Tipperary, Cork and Wexford have dug deep to donate 18 jeeps, 32 generators, thermal clothing and emergency medical supplies to families in war-torn Ukraine.

The jeeps, bought or done up by farmers, are being driven in convoy across the continent to Ukraine this weekend by some 40 volunteers.

The vehicles will be handed over to established contacts in the Ukrainian army who will distribute the donations on the ground to those most in need.

All the farmers and volunteers will then fly home at their own expense later this weekend.

The donation drive is led by Paddy O’Donnell from outside Clonmel in Co Tipperary and his long-time friend, Joe Harty from An Rinn in Co Waterford.

It was supported by dozens of dairy, tillage and dry stock farm families across Tirlán co-op’s west Waterford, south Tipperary, east Cork and north Wexford local advisory committees.

Generator fund

Initially, a generator fund was set up through the Tirlán branch in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and family farm suppliers donated €20,000 which was used to purchase some generators and vehicles.

However, others were donated, with jeep donations flooding in and the excess money used to buy an ambulance.

The ambulance drivers travelling to Ukraine: Darach Powell from Clonmel and Roger O’Byrne from Kilmacthomas. \ Mary Browne

“We didn’t want to be handling money, so the account was set up through Tirlán and they managed it and they got generators for us at a great price.

“We’re particularly thankful to Barry Power and the team in Dungarvan for managing and overseeing everything,” Paddy O’Donnell said.

These men didn’t just work with us, they ate with us, they stayed in our homes and they became part of the extended family

The Tipperary man described how farm families bought jeeps out of their own pockets or did up surplus vehicles which were then donated.

“Word went out in our discussion groups and farmers were not found wanting,” he said.

‘Grew and grew’

Joe Harty highlighted that the donation drive by farm families “just grew and grew”.

Both he and O’Donnell have had Ukrainian men working on their farms over the years and while they’ve always maintained contact with them when they returned home, that contact has been even more regular since war broke out and the need for humanitarian support increased.

“These men didn’t just work with us, they ate with us, they stayed in our homes and they became part of the extended family.

“We got word before Christmas that they needed jeeps. Then they asked for generators and, more recently, we got a call asking for thermal clothing and any medical supplies as the winter was kicking in and power supply was unreliable,” Harty said.

Some 50 agri-food and motor businesses supported the farmers’ fundraising efforts in recent weeks.

“We are most thankful to all the companies, all the farm families and all of the individuals who have been so generous.

“All of us involved in delivering this aid are paying our own way and making our own way home at our own cost, so absolutely everything donated goes to those most in need,” Harty concluded.

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