By Colin MacGillivray
EXCITEMENT, fear and hope are just a few of the emotions racing through the mind of Lancefield paramedic Jodie Rogers as she prepares to travel to Ukraine to assist victims of the Russian invasion.
Ms Rogers will enter the country as a volunteer for not-for-profit charity SMART Medical Aid, which was founded by Ukrainian-born doctor and former New Zealand resident Iryna Rybinkina.
SMART Medical Aid provides emergency medical support and supplies to Ukrainians injured in the conflict and helps transport those requiring life-saving surgery to hospitals across the Polish border.
The charity estimated it had delivered supplies valued at more than the equivalent of $14 million AUD to about 130 Ukrainian medical facilities in the three months following Russia’s February invasion.
Ms Rogers hopes to add to that effort with her own ambitious fundraising target – $100,000 to buy an ambulance.
Ms Rogers set up a page on website GoFundMe, which as of yesterday had raised $3335.
She said if she reached the fundraising target she would be able to help finance the purchase of an ambulance to be used by SMART Medical Aid volunteers, who she met when she travelled to Ukraine to join the group in February.
“They would bring an ambulance over from either Ireland or the UK, and any other leftover funds would be given to [SMART Medical Aid] to purchase medical equipment such as ultrasound machines, ECG machines, defibrillators and consumable medical items like gauze swabs,” she said.
Ms Rogers said she was passionate about helping people facing difficult circumstances, having previously worked to provide medical aid to detainees kept on Nauru under Australia’s mandatory detention policy.
But while she said working overseas in challenging conditions was nothing new for her, she had never visited a war zone.
“It’s a bit concerning, but I’ll be in Lviv, which is near the Polish border, so I’ll be pretty safe over there,” she said.
“I’ll be teaching Ukrainian people in the streets CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] and Stop the Bleed, which is [a program teaching] major haemorrhage and tourniquet use.
“I’ll also be working in [SMART Medical Aid’s] warehouse. Since the war broke out, they’ve distributed 800 tonnes of medical equipment to 132 hospitals across Ukraine, and they also take patients who need life-saving surgery out of Ukraine into Poland and help to relocate their families.”
Ms Rogers urged people across the Macedon Ranges and Mitchell shires to support her fundraising effort, noting the fighting in Ukraine was still as fierce as the day it broke out.
“I think the war has [dropped lower in the public consciousness] and it’s just as fierce today as when it started. Cities are still getting bombed, infrastructure is still getting destroyed and children are still getting hurt,” she said.
“It’s hard fundraising for anything, let alone something that’s not in our backyard, but the people over there still need help.”
Ms Rogers said she felt compelled to help people in need as it helped her process difficulties in her own life.
“I’m a paramedic, I’ve got the skills, I’ve had my own life traumas, and as much as it is for the people of Ukraine, it is for myself as well,” she said.
“Helping people is what I do, and for me it’s a personal thing to help fill that void and do something for people less fortunate than myself.”