A rider has raised more than £25,000 with the help of the equestrian world to fund an aid-giving trip to Poland after seeing two dead Ukrainian children on the news.
Stephen Barnes, 44, from Manchester, galvanised the equestrian community, which has donated money to support his trip to the Ukraine-Poland border with volunteers.
The group will be delivering horse boxes full of aid such as blankets, clothes and first aid equipment while they also plan to bring back those with an eligible visa to enter the UK under the new Homes for Ukraine refugee scheme, or transport them to a place of refuge anywhere in Europe.
Mr Barnes told the PA news agency he was motivated to begin fundraising for the trip after seeing a mother and her two children die whilst trying to flee the war-torn country via a humanitarian corridor.
“There was an article on the News at Ten one night on the BBC, and it showed two children dressed very similarly to the way I dress my children,” he said.
“They were traditionally, nicely dressed and they were with their mother, and they had been killed by a blast, but they were just asleep on the floor.”
Mr Barnes said he “does not care” how long he needs to be on the road for, as his building consultancy business, Black Cat, can continue to run without him.
Nine horse boxes will depart from Knutsford, Cheshire at 6.30pm on Thursday before boarding a 9am boat journey to Holland on Stella Line ferries, which has been donated as a free journey by the company.
The horse boxes have beds, heating, cooking facilities and bathrooms, and Mr Barnes has already been in talks with owners of holiday homes in France and Portugal who may be able to house some refugees.
They will arrive at the Polish-Ukraine border crossing at Horczowa-Krakovets on Saturday and immediately start distributing aid.
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Mr Barnes said that he grew up in the equestrian community and has been inspired by how much support his campaign has received.
“The idea was simply that I come from a world of a equestrian people,” he said. “And they are pretty much all very determined, self-driven, ‘can-do’ sort of people – who are completely unmanageable by the way!
“They’re all brilliant people and they all generally have big trucks and can move big horses and people around the country.”
As well as money, the Ukraine Equestrian Relief group is also looking for volunteers to offer their homes as short-term stopover points on the journey to and from the border, and for anybody who can assist with translations.”
Mr Barnes posted on his GoFundMe page: “There is no time like the present. People and their children are walking, freezing and hiding from shelling. We do something great that affects generations to come.”