Ukraine-Russia: Edinburgh youth worker Gavin Menzies to help Ukrainian student to sanctuary in Scotland after two weeks in Poland and Ukraine
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Gavin Menzies, who owns the High Flyers basketball academy and Games at the Gate, took two weeks off his Masters degree in play therapy to travel to Poland, where he has spent the time reuniting families, taking aid to those in need and caring for hundreds of orphans who fled the conflict.
During his time there, he met a young girl who was feeling lost and worried about her mum and grandparents, with whom she’d lost contact.
“I’ve helped her with her visa and she’s also going to come back to Scotland with me,” said 35-year-old Gavin.
“I’ve linked her with a family in Scotland and I’m now able to take that girl to them. It’s just wonderful. It’s a whole new lease of life for her.”
Gavin was also able to buy the girl a laptop which allowed her to make contact with her university as well as her loved ones.
The girl’s life is just one of many touched by Gavin over the last two weeks, which saw him buy summer clothes for Ukrainian children who had only travelled with winter wardrobes, make journeys over the Ukrainian border and reunite a heartbroken mother with her children.
The Queen Margaret University student, who has to return to Scotland to complete his studies, has even been made a patron of the orphanage he has been helping and is making plans to host summer activity camps and provide more supplies long after his return to Scotland.
“I’ve not done anything really special and I didn’t do it for any kind of praise or anything like that,” he said.
“I just thought I’m going to go over there and I’ve got aid to bring and I’m going to be able to make myself useful. I just wanted to put myself up for anything that was needing done.
“It’s important to remember that these are people with careers, with families, with building clocks in the same way we do back home.
“They’ve had that pulled out from under their feet really quickly. It makes me thankful to be where I am now and to know that there would be people running towards the fire trying to help as well as running away from it if this kind of thing was ever to happen back home.”
And he said all the help he has been able to give those in need is down to the generosity of Edinburgh people who donated to his GoFundMe page - money which he used to buy supplies, electronics and clothes for refugees – and pupils from Rosewell Primary School who made cards for the children.
“I can’t stress enough how life-changing it is for these people,” he said.
“I’m just eternally grateful to all those who have helped. I want them to know that it has given something to people who have had everything taken away from them. That’s something in our hearts of hearts we can only hope to do for someone else and they’ve actually done it.
“It’s a reminder that the world and people in far off countries really care. They can’t believe all these people away in Scotland want to help them.”