Manchester foodbank and bar owners flying to Ukraine to aid refugees – and need your help


The owners of a foodbank and a restaurant in south Manchester are teaming up to travel to Ukraine next week to bring much needed supplies and cash to civilians.

Jen Savaris and Jamie Whittaker are flying to Krakow with 160kg of supplies from tampons to first aid kits and toothpaste to bring to people both stuck at the border and civilians in Ukraine. The pair are also aiming to raise £10,000 before Tuesday, March 8, so that they can buy more supplies once in Poland.

Follow live updates from Ukraine in our live blog here

They met after Jen’s foodbank, Perry’s Pantry Foodbank in Didsbury, lost its premises during Covid. As Jamie’s bar, the Gherkin in Levenshulme, was closed, he offered it up for the foodbank and they operated from there for six months.

Jamie said: “We’re on a few of the Ukrainian help pages on social media, that’s kind of what pushed me to go. Jen phoned me and she suggested it and I jumped at it. We were already doing a poster making event at the Gherkin, for families so they can put posters up to show support in the area.



Suitcases full of medical and dental supplies to be taken to Ukraine

“Any money what we take over there, we’re going to take all of the products we’ve got to the border, unload them and we’re going to keep going back to supermarkets over there where you get more for your money. Then we can ask directly what is needed, like we’ve got £3,000 already and it’s been up for less than two days.

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“10 grand is the target but if it ends at five grand, then that’s amazing and it will go a long way and we’ll be able to give money to the charities we see there as well. Plus we’re going to have to get coaches out from the border back to cities to stock up, closer to the border there will be less supplies.”

To support Jen and Jamie, you can donate to the PayPal fundraiser by clicking here.

Jen and Jamie have 160kg of luggage already packed full with supplies for the trip, and despite not having much more space for more donations, if anyone can donate hats and gloves, they will be accepted at the Gherkin. Jen said they’d been blown away by the generosity shown.

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She said: “It’s been amazing. People are so kind. I’ve done lots of fundraising in the past and it never fails to amaze me. I’ve been watching the new every day and I was just feeling so helpless. I really wanted to do and do something practical.”

Jamie added: “We’re pretty much full with what we can take, but if people still donate physical items then we will just pass on to another charity that’s going to be doing the same thing. Apart from my flat is now a storeroom, it’s not going to do any harm to donate more stuff.

“But it’s just a time limit, if they think we’ll be physically able to take that, then I’d say no it’s just cash donations now really. Because I know that by the time everyone who has seen [the posts], by the time they’ve got the stuff to us, we’ll probably be full. I am thinking of swapping the suitcases over to bigger suitcases though.

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A suitcase full of sanitary products to be taken to Ukraine
A suitcase full of sanitary products to be taken to Ukraine

“What we do need is hats and gloves, that’s what we would take because it’s cold and that’s on the list from the Ukraine, and if they can be vacuum packed, then I can fit more in. They don’t have to be new, just in good condition and warm.

“Anything can come to the Gherkin, we’ve got a kindness cabinet outside the Gherkin so anyone can always drop off donations to those in need anyway and anyone can take from it and anyone can put in.”

Jamie described the plan that he and Jen intend to follow, but admitted that a lot about their journey was still unknown and would be until they got to the Poland-Ukraine border.

He said: “We’re flying to Krakow and then getting a lift from one of the support groups from the airport to the border and then we’ll get buses. If I can get into Ukraine to help the people who’ve been left behind, then I’m going to.

“If I can help the people, get the stuff that’s been left behind to the people in more need, then we will do. But obviously, we need to risk assess that when we get there. I don’t know what it’s like at the borders. So it’s not necessarily just for the fleeing refugees, but for the people who are going to be stuck there. I don’t know if businesses are fully shut down or if people can still access stuff, it’s an unknown.

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“But there will be organizations and support groups doing the groundwork already who will advise and take the stuff from us and distribute it to the right places.”

He added: “It just amazes me what Poland has done. I think it’s amazing, they’re another country just taking people in and we’re refusing, it just makes me sad.”

To support Jen and Jamie, you can donate to the PayPal fundraiser by clicking here.

Read more about the war in Ukraine: Kherson protests: Man stands on tank with Ukraine flag as thousands protest against Russia

Also read: Jesse Lingard victim of £100k burglary as thieves target Manchester United star’s house

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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