Families only desire is to help kids survive war
TWO staff members from WALK – the Walkinstown Association for People with an Intellectual Disability, are travelling to the Poland-Ukraine border this week to collect two families with children with intellectual disabilities from the war-torn country.
WALK CEO Joe Mason and director of day supports, Kevin Power, will also be dropping off supplies at the border to help those in Ukraine.
The two men will set off in the WALK minibus on Thursday, when they will get the ferry to Holyhead. They will then take the Folkestone Eurotunnel to Calais, France, before heading to their destination – Lublin, on the Poland-Ukraine border.
They plan to pick up two families from Kyiv, who have children with intellectual disabilities, at the border and bring them to Dublin so they can escape the ongoing conflict.
Mr Mason told The Echo: “The vast majority of people in Ukraine who have intellectual disabilities haven’t been able to get out to the refugee camps on the border.
“One of the families we’re collecting has a friend who has offered to drive them to the border, but we’re still waiting for confirmation from the second family about how they’ll get there.”
One of the families has a 12-year-old daughter with “significant needs” and severe epilepsy.
They only have three weeks’ worth of medication for their daughter and, due to the severity of her condition, they are unable to go to the basement of their apartment building when there’s shelling.
The second family has an 11-year-old boy, who has physical and sensory disabilities. Accommodation and supports are already in place for when the families are expected to arrive in Dublin next week.
Explaining what motivated him to help Ukrainian families with children with intellectual disabilities, Mr Mason said: “I have read a lot of documentation about how conflict affects those with disabilities.
“I had read a lot of reports and realised the vast majority of people with disabilities haven’t been able to escape.”
After watching news reports about the worsening situation in Ukraine, and being concerned about the ability of families with children with disabilities to escape the conflict, Mr Mason made the decision to travel to the border with his colleague, who was also on board with the idea.
In recent days, WALK accepted donations of essentials at their Long Mile Road premises, which will be delivered to the border before the families are collected.
“What we’re doing might be small, but it’s still something,” said Mr Mason. “But if everybody does something small, it can turn into something massive.
“These families have children with physical and intellectual disabilities. We’ll collect them, bring them here, and give them support with housing and things like that.
“The families’ only desire is to help their children survive the war. They have no family in Ireland, but I’m assured that the Ukrainian diaspora here are a very warm and welcoming group, so we want to link in with them.”
The two men expect the outward journey to take roughly 14 hours, while they expect it to take several days for them to return.
When asked about how he feels about the impending journey, Mr Mason said: “To be honest, there’s probably a little bit of anxiety about facing into the unknown.
“But the distinction is my ‘unknown’ is very different from the families’ unknown. At the back of my mind, I know that no matter what I’m feeling, it’s nothing like what people in Ukraine are feeling.
“I know that I’m safe, I know that my children are safe – but these people can’t say the same thing.”