“Don’t send clothes to Ukraine, send money instead”

Huge mounds of clothes donated by well-meaning Europeans have been dumped and left in a parking lot on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

Volunteer Charlie Hannerton, 27, took photos of the piles of clothes and bedding in the border town of Medyka, near Przemysl in Poland. He claims that the donations arrive in truckloads from all over Europe, but the volunteers have no time to sort through the unlabeled and unsorted boxes.

Labeled and sorted boxes containing needed items – such as sanitary napkins and diapers – are taken to a nearby warehouse and distributed to refugees, he said. But boxes of mixed-up matching clothes are dumped in a nearby car park – because staff don’t have time to sort them, he said.

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Charlie, from Falmouth, Cornwall, said refugees arrive on foot and do not spend enough time at the border post to sort through clothes and can only take what they can carry.

The piles of discarded clothes come after a number of humanitarian charities urged supporters to donate money to reputable charities, rather than sending various donated items.

Charlie saw the abandoned boxes while working in Medyka, Poland on Wednesday and Thursday (March 9 and 10).
He added that other volunteers he met there reported similar mounds of discarded items at almost every border crossing point.
He said: “The point I think I was trying to get across with the photos is that when the volunteers at the border say no clothing donations, they really mean no clothing.

“Refugees and volunteers at the border just don’t have enough time to give them to people. When the refugees arrive, they are literally brought into the camp and then immediately put on a bus or transported to Europe in a car .

“They’re just hanging out on a bus, and there’s basically no system. Volunteers just line up, put on a high-visibility vest, and take anyone to a place where they might have relatives or friends. I took four people to Berlin as an example on my way home.

“You just show up, write your details – often wrong, then they say go get people to take with you. Volunteers and refugees just don’t have time to sift through packets of clothes and say ‘oh that’s good, I’ll take it with me to Spain’ or wherever. They just get on a bus and leave.

“What they need are diapers, sanitary napkins, blankets, really useful single-use things – consumables, I guess.”

Charlie says more and more boxes of clothes, strollers and bedding are dumped in the parking lot every day. He said heaps of donations were now filling parking lots along the border. A specialist in supporting children with special needs and traumatized children, Charlie says Ukrainian refugees need exhaustible single-use items like sanitary napkins, diapers and blankets.

Charlie said the refugees now arriving in Poland, Moldova, Slovakia and other border countries are “the lucky ones” who can afford to escape. But even these people, who have money and cars, still have to cross the border with only what they can carry.

He explained: “I’ve been in the refugee camps this week. I work with traumatized children in the UK, so I took my outdoor setup to the refugee camps to do some outdoor education stuff. air with the children there. I found myself giving things at the border for the refugees who cross. There are children who walk literally for days.

“They could lose their family or become orphans, they just walk to the border without food and with what they are carrying.”

Elizabeth J. Harless