Tens of thousands of oxygen masks delivered to Ukraine thanks to Bedfordshire community group

Katarzyna Southin and Emily Roberts started the Central Beds Ukraine Appeal two weeks ago. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Katarzyna Southin, also known as Kasha, is originally from Poland but lives in Bedfordshire. In a bid to help people in Ukraine she put a post on her local village Facebook page offering to take a carload of local donations to a centre in London that had already started collecting.

She was overwhelmed and inundated with people's generosity and immediately turned her house into a collection centre.

Kasha says she was working around the clock, with her toddler and husband, to organise and distribute the donations that she received.

Very quickly the amount of donations became unmanageable and the operation needed to expand.

Kasha soon partnered with Emily Roberts who was doing the same thing in a village just 10 minutes down the road.

Together they created the Central Beds Ukraine Appeal, and their communities have rallied around them to create a slick operation running from St. Mary's Church in the village of Clophill.

They've quickly become one of the largest donators in the country.

Their latest donation included 33,600 oxygen masks and tubes which were donated by ClearO2 to help rebuild hospitals in Ukraine.

Drivers at local transport company Clarke's volunteered to drive the donations to London. Credit: ITV News Anglia

For Kasha, the hope is to simply make a difference. She said: "I want to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers and everyone who donated to us.

"I think what is also shows is that what people can do, the power of the community, it's just been absolutely amazing.

"Another thing is that people are able to help for free, everything has been donated; time, transport, knowledge, even people that were not able to do things physically, they have ideas. And that's a value that you can't put money on."

In two weeks the group has donated more than 100 tonnes of various items.

Emily says it's been great to see the community come together. She said: "Central Beds is a group of villages who individually seem quite small. But when you bring them together, it's snowballed into more than we could possibly imagine."

"We never expected in our wildest dreams for it to go from just a small collection into a huge community project which has now fund managers, transport managers, volunteer managers, people doing everything for free.

"And what it's really done, as well as supporting those in Ukraine, is bringing the community together, people who potentially don't know each other from very, very close neighbouring villages actually working together to achieve something massive."

The Clophill community has rallied around Kasha and Emily to get as many donations as possible and show their support. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Local transport company Clarke's has offered to drive the supplies to London. From there the items will be sent to Poland.

Mark James, who is one of the Depot Managers for Clarke's in Bedfordshire said: "It's incredible. It really is incredible.

"We all felt we wanted to do something and that there wasn't a lot we could do. But when we find something we can do that makes a genuine difference, it's heartwarming. It really is.

Members of the Clophill community carrying paper sunflowers to show their solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Credit: ITV News Anglia

For Kasha the issue feels particularly close to home, she said when the war broke out she was desperate to help: "It just makes my heart feel better that I've done something, and I think that was what I was missing from day one when the war started, I felt that I'm not doing anything. But now look.

"We thought it was just going to be one bag of donations, and now it's turned into this. So if you feel like you want to do something, then just go for it. You never know what's going to happen."