London, Ont. Nurse tells about help to refugees at Polish-Ukrainian border – London


A nurse registered in London, Ontario has returned home after providing assistance at the Poland-Ukraine border.

Brandon Duncan, who works at the London Health Sciences Center (LHSC), has been a registered nurse for 14 years.

He began working for the Canadian Medical Assistance Team (CMAT) in 2010 following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti.

“I’ve always been very drawn to disaster relief situations and going to places (where) they don’t have a lot of resources,” he said.

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Duncan sits on CMAT’s board of directors, and as the Ukraine bypass escalated, the board held a series of meetings to see how he could help.

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“We have no experience or equipment in war zones or even guidelines to do this,” he said.

“But after some discussion, we decided that CMAT could get involved and offer our services to the refugees.”

And so, on March 4, Duncan and a colleague flew to Poland and traveled to several border towns.

“We then started crossing to Ukraine (and) we also went to Lviv a couple of times. We could get to Lviv to bring medicines to hospitals, so we started running drug drives for people and taking supplies to where they were needed,” he recalled.

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He says he and his colleague didn’t go too far east into Ukraine, where active bombing was taking place.

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“In Lviv, a lot of (people) were still going about their daily lives, but everyone was definitely nervous,” Duncan said. “I spent a few nights in Lviv and in the end we had to spend a few nights in the air raid shelter because the air raid alarm went off.”

He says the atmosphere was scary but the people were nice.

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“People around us … it wasn’t their first time, and they knew the practice and it was very reassuring of them, (which gave us a bit of comfort.”

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“The people of Ukraine and Poland are amazing and so resilient,” Duncan said, reflecting on his experience.

“I saw lines of grandmothers preparing hundreds of thousands of sandwiches for the people of Ukraine every night[at]these borders… It’s amazing that the world can come together.”

The London nurse recommends Canadians donate money to relief efforts rather than donating materials like blankets and clothing, which he says often sit in shipping containers for long periods and are sometimes thrown away.

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Duncan says Canadians wanting to donate blankets and clothing should wait until refugees arrive in Canada.

“These people will only arrive with a suitcase. This is where these stocks would be best optimized.”

Duncan also provided relief in the Philippines after the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2013.

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The trip to the Polish-Ukrainian border was his third mission with CMAT.

-With files by Andrew Graham, Mike Stubbs and Maya Reid of 980 CFPL

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