Samaritans drive 3K teddy bears to Ukraine refugee children

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Samaritans drive 3K teddy bears to Ukraine refugee children

The Teddy Busz has left the station.

A group of four English men has begun their journey to deliver 3,000 teddy bears, children’s clothing, other supplies — and hopefully some smiles — to refugee children in Ukraine.

David Fricker, 40, a train driver from Somerset, was on vacation in Hungary when Russia invaded Ukraine in late February but “couldn’t stand by when volunteers were urgently needed.”

Fricker headed down to the Nyugati railway station and joined other volunteers creating food and toiletry packages and sorting clothing donations with the Hungarian Reform Charity.

“The thing which upset me most at the railway station was seeing the children arriving with nothing more than their school bag,” Fricker told Jam Press.

David Fricker, 40,  Mike Sherston, 42, Neil Sansam, 41, and Adam Smith, 38,  stand in front of the 54 passenger van they are driving to the Ukrainian border.
David Fricker, 40, Mike Sherston, 42, Neil Sansam, 41, and Adam Smith, 38, began their journey to the Ukrainian border on Sunday, March 13.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz
The men reached out to friends and family to collect donations of toys, clothes and other supplies for Ukrainian refugee children.
The men reached out to friends and family to collect donations of toys, clothes and other supplies for Ukrainian refugee children.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz

“Yet the light on their faces from the few free teddy bears we could give them would melt the coldest heart,” he said.

The scene at the train station brought Fricker to tears — but it also gave him an idea.

“I had to come home to resume work but was affected by what I saw and wanted to do something more to help,” he explained.

Fricker went back to the UK and began reaching out to friends, telling them he wanted to bring the children from Ukraine more than just basic necessities. In fact, he wanted to bring them “joy and comfort” in the furry form of a teddy bear.

Two furry teddy bears have handwritten notes of encouragement from other children tied around their necks.
Fricker was inspired to bring teddy bears to the young refugees after seeing them entering Hungary with only a school backpack.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz
A handwritten note tied to one of the donated teddy bears.
Fricker wanted the teddy bears to come with handwritten notes to remind the Ukrainian children that people all around the world are sending them love.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz

“I also wanted to have each bear with a label of love and support written by local children,” the train driver said.

He said that trucks were in short supply, as they were needed for transporting medicines and other essential supplies there. But after reaching out to friends and colleagues in the transportation industry, he was able to get ahold of a 53-seater bus — and a few fellow teddy bear deliverers, who all took 10 days of unpaid leave to travel to and from Hungary.

Fricker was been joined by Mike Sherston, 42, who also works as a train driver; Neil Sansam, 41, a telecoms engineer; and Adam Smith, 38, who works as an NHS training coordinator.

Together they were able to collect an estimated 3,000 teddy bears along with other toys and supplies, including children’s clothing donated by friends, family, businesses, local schools and the community.

One of the men delivering the teddy bears sit on the bus surrounded by the stuffed animals
The four English men took 10 days of unpaid leave to travel to the Hungary/Ukraine border amid the war.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz
Teddy bears fill the seats of the 54 passenger bus
Thousands of teddy bears and other children’s supplies were gathered in just 10 days to support the kids.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz

The Teddy Busz project has also received support and sponsorships from companies including Brittany Ferries, Waitrose and TK Maxx. They are also continuing to fundraise via their Facebook page and plan to donate any remaining funds.

“I’ve been totally overwhelmed by messages of love and support, kind sponsorship and donations of bears,” Fricker said.

“We’ve probably had over 6,000 items to sift, sort and pack in itemized, grouped packages for customs and distribution purposes,” he said.

The project came together very quickly, and the Teddy Busz set off for Hungary on March 13, just 10 days after Fricker had the idea.

Two teddy bears sit on the dashboard
The Teddy Busz reached Záhony railway station on Thursday.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz
Thousands of teddy bears are stacked next to the bus
Fricker and the other men hope the toys and supplies will bring smiles to the young refugee faces.
Jam Press/TeddyBusz

As of Thursday, March 17, according to an update on Facebook, the group was currently at Záhony railway station in Hungary on the border of Ukraine. The men hoped to deliver the goods to the influx of refugees that day.

They plan to operate as “a mobile warehouse,” hand-delivering the relief to avoid getting in the way of delivery trucks with other essential supplies.

“We hope to achieve some reassurance for those children who’ve left everything behind that they aren’t alone in the world, that people all over the world are thinking of them, and sending the love that children need in these times.”

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