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Edd China downs tools to join aid mission to Ukraine

by Charlotte Vowden
28 April 2022 4 min read
Edd China downs tools to join aid mission to Ukraine
Edd China and Paul Brackley Photo: Edd China

When Edd China received the call he didn’t hesitate to down tools. A convoy of eight HGV lorries was being mobilised to deliver food and critical medical equipment to the Ukrainian front line and the organisation responsible wanted to know if he was willing to volunteer as a driver on the 3000 mile mission. It was an instant yes, he wanted to do his bit, and today China is due to hit the road.

“It’s a privilege to be able to help because it’s a very visceral and practical way of doing it,” explains China. “A few people have said it sounds very dangerous and that it’s a brave thing to do but it’s just driving, I do that a lot so it’s nice to do it for a cause that matters.”

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Travelling in the opposite direction to the thousands of refugees escaping the war zone, the humanitarian aid train of trucks will transport 120 tonnes of supplies – which includes tinned food, defibrillators, wheelchairs, PPE, personal hygiene products and 20 pallets of Yorkshire Tea – to an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Drivers, including China and his Workshop Diaries colleague, Paul Brackley, will share behind-the-wheel responsibilities in shifts so that the convoy can keep moving across Europe around the clock. 

“We have to share the driving because otherwise we won’t get there quick enough,” explains China. “By swapping around we’ll also be able to keep the banter going which will keep the group’s spirits up so we can keep marching on. The days and nights are going to be quite long.”

Pragmatic about his venture and the uncertainty that lies ahead, China is one of thousands of Britons, from pub landlords to sports stars, a former prime minister and paramedics, who have overlanded in cars, vans and minibuses to deliver goods that have been donated in response to the crisis, but he is keen to emphasise that his mission has been co-ordinated by a trusted charity with decades of experience in collecting, transporting and distributing humanitarian aid to exactly where it is needed throughout Romania and the Ukraine. 

“The Yorkshire Aid Convoy has been working with the Ukrainian government for many years so they’ve got networks and contacts in place,” says China, who has set up GoFundMe and JustGiving pages to help raise money which will be used to cover the convoy’s costs – the fuel bill alone may be as much as £18,000.

“It makes much more sense, and it’s much safer, to do something like this as part of an organised charity that knows what they’re doing because you know the donations are going to go to the right people, at the right place, at the right time,” cautions China. “Turning up at the border and hoping that it’s all going to be fine could present all kinds of problems, we don’t want to endanger ourselves and other people because we’re just wandering off to a country and a situation we don’t understand.”

By setting off on this mission and sharing his story, China hopes that fans, and followers of his YouTube series, will join him in making a difference, and for those who wish to donate goods rather than financial aid, they can do so directly by visiting the Yorkshire Aid Convoy’s website.

“People see this pain and unpleasantness and as humans I think we have an urge to help others. Not everybody can do what we’re doing but I hope that we can somehow manifest other people’s intentions and good will. I also hope that by using my voice and my notoriety to raise awareness of the Yorkshire Aid Convoy it will help them going forward. It does seem like this is not something that’s going to blow over easily.”

It’s going to be tiring and it’s going to be a challenge, says China, but “compared to what people are putting up with over there, it’s nothing”. Will he be taking his tool kit with him, just in case? Of course, but with a fleet of trucks that includes vehicles designed for long-distance journeys and clocking up hundreds of thousands of miles a year he’s optimistic that his skills won’t need to be put to good use.

“I’m hoping they haven’t noticed I’m a mechanic,” he laughs. “These vehicles are designed for exactly this kind of thing – even punctures are unlikely – so I can’t imagine there will be any issues, but if there are, we’ll get round them, there will be lots of hands on deck.” 

If possible, and appropriate, Edd and Paul plan to film an episode of Workshop Diaries on the road, but because of the unpredictable and sensitive nature of their endeavour, they can’t make any promises. Rest assured, when he’s safely home, Hagerty’s man on the ground will be checking in to let us know how it went.

You can help Edd’s aid effort by donating at GoFundMe or JustGiving. To find out more about The Yorkshire Aid Convoy click here.

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