Russia-Ukraine conflict: Portsmouth care home owner drives hundreds of miles in van 'absolutely rammed' full of supplies to support the Ukrainian aid cause

AFTER watching the horrors of the Russian-Ukrainian war, one Portsmouth care home owner was determined to make a difference.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 2:41 pm

David Sheppard and his co-driver, Salah Mustafa, embarked on a 2,500 mile trip in his van to deliver vital aid supplies to desperate war-torn citizens.

He was waved off by the Lord Mayor Frank Jonas and staff at Bluewater care home on Friday, April 8 before travelling across five countries to reach the Polish-Ukrainian border.

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Bluewater care home owner, David Sheppard, drove a van full of supplies to Ukraine. Pictured: David Sheppard holding a flag, the Lord Mayor, Frank Jonas and his sister, the mayoress, Joy Maddox, care home staff, Radio Victory DJs, and staff of George and Dragon outside Bluewater care home, Portsmouth, on Friday April 8, 2022. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

The pair returned home to Portsmouth at 6.30am on Monday morning.

Mr Sheppard said despite being ‘exhausted’ by the expedition, he was proud to help the aid cause.

He told The News: ‘The minute we opened the doors, and saw what we got, their faces lit up.

‘They said everything I brought was what they needed.

Bluewater care home owner, David Sheppard, and his co-driver, made a 2,500 mile round trip to Ukraine. Pictured: David Sheppard in his van, the Lord Mayor, Frank Jonas and his sister, the mayoress, Joy Maddox, care home staff, Radio Victory DJs, and staff of George and Dragon outside Bluewater care home, Portsmouth on April 8, 2022. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘They were staggered we travelled all the way from Portsmouth and said “I can’t believe people were thinking of us so far away.”’

The pair left the care home, in Kingston Road, and arrived at Folkstone at 5pm last Friday, before travelling through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Poland.

While travelling, they received an outpouring of support, with cars tooting their horns as they crossed Europe.

The philanthropists traversed forever changing temperatures, from the freezing cold in Germany and Poland, to the beaming sun in Belgium, which burnt their legs.

David Sheppard and his co-driver,, Salah Mustafa, travelled all the way to Ukraine to donate aid supplies. Here they are pictured outside the donation centre on the Poland-Ukraine border. Picture: David Sheppard.

He added his Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, wrapped in the Ukrainian flag, was ‘absolutely rammed’ full of supplies – with more fastened to the roof rack.

This included 35 zimmer frames and other medical aid, £400 worth of dried food, 100 blankets, tents, toiletries, sanitary products, warm clothes, and children’s toys.

Aid was funded primarily from Mr Sheppard himself, and other local residents and colleagues.

Upon arriving in Eastern Europe border, after 22 hours of driving, the van was guided to the Otwarte Codzienne centre by a Ukrainian scientist.

Mr Sheppard said the van was 'absolutely rammed' full of supplies, including zimmer frames, walking frames, dried food, blankets, tents, toiletries, sanitary products, and warm clothes. Picture: David Sheppard.

Once there, the people were blown away by the supplies they received.

Mr Sheppard said: ‘They were absolutely amazed with the toys we took along, and they said “‘You wont realise how much this will lift up the hearts of the children, and their mothers.”

‘It was a touching moment, and you couldn’t help but be emotional.

‘Their reaction was something I will never forget.’

The care home owner and his co-driver left behind Ukrainian flag, and €350.

Mr Sheppard said ‘You’d thought I gave them £1m.’

Mr Sheppard said he was incredibly proud of the trip, as he said all the supplies were taken by the donation centre. Picture: David Sheppard.

After a gruelling trip home, the care home owner said he could hardly sleep, due to the adrenaline of the expedition.

He said he is planning a future journey in five weeks time, and would tailor the supplies he brings to the needs of the donation centre.

Mr Sheppard said he wants to continue the ‘movement’ of support for Ukraine, inspire others to do the same, and respond to the ‘heinous’ war crimes committed by Russia.

‘It was a coming together of everyone from Portsmouth, even though we’re largely unaffected by the war, we wanted to offer our support.

‘Sitting upright in the van was agony, but each time you think of the children suffering in war, it’s worth it, and I’d do it again.

‘That aid may have been a drop in the ocean, but it was worthwhile enough to make me want to go back.’