Life-saving medical products are among donated humanitarian aid being delivered from Alberta to war-torn Ukraine by a St. Albert nurse.
"It was so valuable I felt a duty to those who donated to make sure the product arrived safely," said Shannon Boddez, who made her second journey to her ancestral homeland in early December.
Blood clotting factor products and hemostatic agents — all 'gently expired' — were brought by Boddez along with other medical supplies, clothing and other items.
When asked to explain the term 'gently expired', Boddez said the products -— donated by families affiliated with the Canadian Hemophilia Society — "can't be used in Canada but it's like a miracle in Ukraine."
Boddez, who has been organizing aid shipments since early March, said she felt she had to personally deliver the medical products.
"If you ship it there is no control over it, that's why I went," said the big-hearted nurse, who delivered the products to a hospital in Lviv and included hands-on instruction.
‘There was a little bit of teaching, because they don't have access to what we have," she said.
An RN at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Boddez switched shifts and used vacation time to make an eight-day trip to Lviv in late September and a three-day trek in early December. On both trips she travelled with other like-minded Albertans she found through a Facebook-created group called Ukrainian Volunteers of Edmonton.
Boddez, who has relatives on her mother's side in Ukraine, began her humanitarian efforts in March after putting out an appeal on her personal Facebook page.
"I made one Facebook post on a Wednesday for donations and by Sunday I had 116 kg of stuff. I burst into tears," said Boddez, adding about 40 hospital employees responded. The next day she shipped the items — including non-perishable food, diapers and warm clothing — to Ukraine.
"Since then it has just snowballed," said Boddez, as she arranged five other shipments over the next few months.
Her tact changed in late summer when the blood clotting factor products and hemostatic agents became available from the Canadian Hemophilia Society and the deliveries turned personal.
Boddez teamed up with several UVE volunteers to help facilitate the fall trips. One key player was Dave Bryenton, who had made nine trips trips to Ukraine delivering a variety of supplies including protective gear while the other was Daniel Laskavenko, a Ukrainian-speaking peace officer who has been selling military patches to fundraise for Ukraine.
In September, there were a total of 47 donation-filled pieces of luggage delivered by the team of Boddez and Bryenton, while an identical number was collected for the December trip — which included Laskavenko.
The team arrived in Ukraine with 47 bags — all weighing at least 32 kg — to deliver.
"After we dropped off Dave with six bags to go to Kherson, Daniel and I had 41 bags to either deliver or arrange pickups in Lviv," said Boddez.
She said, "Just figuring out logistics is tricky and both played key roles. Without good teamwork, these delivery missions would be impossible."
Boddez, who found time to visit relatives and friends, said the supplies bring hope to the people of Ukraine.
"We bring the items to them and that bolsters them and boosts their morale. It gives them support and hope."
And Boddez said the in-person shipments meant a lot for her and the other volunteers.
"To be able to personally deliver items to a variety of places is so appreciated and makes our efforts more tangible.”
While Boddez was never in an area of active fighting, the visits did come with some tense moments, including when air raid sirens went off during the September visit to Lviv.
She retreated to a hotel bomb shelter once but said she never felt any sense of panic or fear.
Once back at home, Boddez said she found herself reminded of the unsettling air raid sirens whenever she “hears an engine revving or a similar sound on the radio.”
The St. Albert woman continues to collect donations and plans to return after Christmas, adding, "I will go back to Ukraine, 100 per cent I will."
When asked why she has not reached out to an agency like the Red Cross, Boddez said, "There's a lot more red tape with those organizations. We're a grass-roots group."
She added, "I go to Ukraine on behalf of so many, but also supported and encouraged by so many. I don’t do this alone. It takes a village to tackle such an undertaking and I’m so grateful for mine"
To support Shannon's campaign, contact; [email protected]
To contact the group, search for the Ukrainian Volunteers of Edmonton on Facebook.