Among the first to help
On 24 February, Prof Dennis Ougrin and his wife Roxanne woke up to the terrible news that their home country of Ukraine was being invaded. They knew they needed to help and they knew they needed to act quickly.
The first mission was to drive over 1,000 miles to Przemyśl on the Polish/Ukrainian border, where many volunteers were waiting to transport supplies further into Ukraine.
Dennis and his wife loaded their car with a portable ultrasound machine and other medical supplies desperately needed by wounded Ukrainian troops, children and families.
Making a huge amount of difference
Soldiers often die because they cannot access an ultrasound machine that can identify if they have shrapnel in their bodies can lead to fatalities. Before his first trip, Dennis called Lviv Hospital and asked what they needed most, and this is what they asked for.
“They say the ultrasound machines are already making a huge amount of difference,” he says.
To fund this, Dennis and Roxanne set up a JustGiving page, thinking they would raise a few thousand pounds at most. However, in the time the page was live, they raised nearly £75,000. The JustGiving page is now closed to donations.
Using his expertise to help Ukraine’s youth
Dennis is working with professionals from all over the world to help Ukrainian children get the mental health help they need. He adds: “This is just the beginning, we will keep working day and night to provide as much support and relief as we can, this is by no means the end.”
Dennis is a Professor of Child Psychiatry at Queen Mary, University of London and Vice President of the Ukrainian Medical Association of the UK. He is also the co-director of the Youth Resilience Unit (YRU) located at Newham Hospital, which was set up with Barts Charity funding.
The overall aim of the YRU is to study how young people in East London use resources in the community to overcome mental distress. His expertise in child psychiatry and youth resilience is exceptionally helpful in trying to strengthen resilience in Ukrainian children facing unimaginable terror.
Every child has been affected
In addition to all of this, Dennis is also a scout leader for Ukrainian Scouts here in the UK. Earlier this month, they held a summer camp in Wales and invited child refugees to join. It was a great opportunity for them to have some relaxation time, meet new children and get to know their new life in the UK. Dennis is also involved in an art therapy project for Ukranian children and helps out at a free clinic for Ukranian families through the Ukrainian Welcome Centre.
Dennis says: “At the moment in Ukraine, every child has been affected by the war in some way. Whether that is because they had to go into shelters to avoid bombing and shelling or they’ve had their entire lives destroyed by the war. Their schools, their hospitals and their homes are now gone. And for some members of their family were killed.”
Their second of many planned trips
For one of his many other trips, Dennis brought aid to the city of Mykolayiv, in the south of the country. With the help of incredibly generous donations, they provided life-savings supplies, including first aid kits and a portable ultrasound machine to a hospital in the besieged city.
Dennis’s own parents are still in Ukraine. He says: “They are angry, defiant, their resolve is strong. My dad is past retirement age but still working and organising a territorial army unit at the university where he is the vice president.