7 retired St John ambulances to be sent to war-torn Ukraine

Sun, Apr 2

Seven decommissioned St John ambulances packed with medical equipment and other vital supplies will be sent from New Zealand to war-torn Ukraine.

Humanitarian aid worker Tenby Powell secured the fleet with the help of St John.

The former soldier and Tauranga mayor is the director of humanitarian charity Kiwi K.A.R.E., which provides aid and critical refugee evacuation services in Ukraine.

"I think no matter what you see on YouTube, no matter what you see on the news, on television - until you’re there and you hear the noise and you see the sights and you smell the smells that are there, it’s impossible to really capture it properly," he said.

Powell was motivated after doing several months of aid work in the war-ravaged country.

The ambulances will be shipped from Auckland to Ukraine next month. Five of the vehicles will go to the front lines, while two will be used as Kiwi K.A.R.E.’s mobile health clinics.

Powell’s daughter Charlotte is nervous about her father returning to the war.

"Sometimes there would be a message from him and he’d say, ‘Hey, you’re not gonna hear from me for a little while’,” she said.

"Everyone knows again that I was in pieces, not quite myself until we got that text again a few days later to know he’s safe.”

While she hasn’t ruled out going to the warzone herself, "I have so many outside people like my Mum and family who would not like me to go".

"You feel like there is a little bit of you that should and you want to do good so never say never," she said.

Powell said he “felt that I just want to do something positive while I can”.

"I’m lucky at my age to be fit enough to be able to go to Ukraine," he said.

"While it’s wearying and taxing, I believe it’s where I should be and deep in my soul, I know that’s where I should be right now."