DALES -based mechanic and former semi-professional rally driver John Midgley raised £60,000 by selling some of his car collection to set up a charity running emergency supplies to Ukraine -  he has now delivered around £1m of aid to the war-torn country.

Mr Midgley, of Midgley Motors, Grassington, was setting off on his KTM 390 motorbike on a trip to Morocco when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Unable to cross the border into Morocco, he instead spent a week riding around the mountains of Spain, thinking about the conflict and what he could do to help.

While on the road, he overtook a convoy of lorries and other vehicles heading to Ukraine with humanitarian aid - and on his return home he decided to sell a couple of his classic Toyota rally cars and use the money to help. With the £60,000 from the Toyota Celicas he reconditioned an ambulance, started making trips to Ukraine and as more people came on board, set up Fast Aid support and Transport (FAST).

Since then, Mr Midgley, a member of Skipton Craven Rotary Club, has joined forces with other rotary clubs and charitable organisations and, with the help of Emilia Merenmies, who had already made several trips and had made many useful contacts with Rotary clubs in Ukraine, he has made six journeys to Kiev, taking around £1 million of essential supplies, including medical equipment and every day essentials.

He originally hired vehicles to make the journey, which takes around a week to get there and back, but now, using his mechanic skills, has converted vans and 4x4 vehicles to be taken and used in Ukraine.

A fundraising event is planned for Grassington Town Hall on June 24, featuring musical acts and an auction, and he is now set on selling off more of his treasured car collection, because he says 'if someone calls from Ukraine asking for something, how can I say no".

Having raised the initial £60,000 and deciding how best to use it, he read an article about the mayor of Kiev receiving an ambulance from a charity in Germany. He was also appealing for warm blankets to help his people through the winter.

"I thought I can do that, so I bought an ex- front line ambulance and put it through my workshops to recondition it, added a solar panel charging and battery storage system so people could use it to charge phones, computers torches and other equipment, as by now the electrical infrastructure was being attacked by the Russian military.

"I thought there was no point sending an empty ambulance, so I made some posters appealing for warm clothes and bedding to fill it I put these up around the village. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks and then there was a deluge. It soon became obvious I was going to need more help with transport."

He contacted a group in Kent headed by a Ukranian woman, Valia,who was sending out aid on a regular basis. He also joined forces with Emilia Merenmies ,who had already made several trips and had made many useful contacts with Rotary clubs in Ukraine.

A second trip was made just before Christmas in very bad weather conditions - making it an 'adventure all its own'.

As words of the trips got around, it became clear they would need their own transport - which led to the setting up of FAST.

"We now have several vans at our disposal plus a trailer so we can take up to three tonnes at a time direct to Ukraine," said Mr Midgley.

"Since our first trip with the ambulance in December we have been to Ukraine five more times taking over 300 generators 200 aqua boxes, about 50 tonnes of a mixture of hospital equipment, clothing, sleeping bags, bedding, eight 4x4 vehicles a high-capacity water purifier and a desalination system pulled by a Land Cruiser, a 7.5 tonne truck for de-mining work and much more.

"We have several 4x4pick ups, a 4x4 van to be converted into a rudimentary ambulance and a freezer van to go as soon as we can raise the funds to take them."

FAST needs all the help it can get. Donations can be made to the Rotary club of Skipton Craven, charity account: sort code 40 42 06 account no 11476815. Use the reference FAST