Rod Buckley: Two million meals delivered; three lessons learnt

Standing in a warehouse in Rotherham, I am surrounded by seventy-five volunteers organising and packing Food Boxes destined for Ukraine. Here in early March 2022 at the start of our humanitarian relief effort, the mood is determined and defiant, spurred on by a profound desire to help the people of Ukraine. These volunteers have come from across the North of England, pausing their daily lives to help a humanitarian effort which would soon spread across the world to deliver more than two million meals to Ukrainians. This is just one small part of RRT’s response to help refugees displaced by the war.

RRT – the Rapid Relief Team – is a global charity run by members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. RRT delivers hope and relief to people across the globe. Whether it be fire, flood or humanitarian need, RRT expands their support services to meet the need at hand. In the UK, we provide vital support to some of the most vulnerable individuals in need, and offer valuable assistance to emergency services during major incidents, such as the London Bridge terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

With the war in Ukraine, we realised that we needed to support those in need directly, and this required us to adapt and innovate. Now seven months later from the start of Operation 322, I share three lessons we have learnt so far.

Draw on your strengths

We quickly mobilised our greatest asset – our network of supporters and volunteers around the world. We have 14,500 volunteers across the globe, and all of them were on standby, keen to support, whether this was packing food and healthcare packs in Europe, or feeding and caring for those seeking refuge in the US and Canada. We were quickly able to raise funds which allowed us to move fast. With boots on the ground in key countries such as Poland, our aid was being delivered with pace. 100% of all funds donated to Operation 322 are being delivered in aid which has also been a great message to share with our donors.

Packing supplies at speed is an area of strength for RRT. The RRT has over four years of experience in delivering Food Boxes to those in need, including to vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. By bringing together our two strengths of packing at speed and our network of volunteers meant that we were able to pack as many as 20,000 meals a night.

Take expert advice

While we drew on these two core strengths, we also recognised the uniqueness of the conflict and the opportunity to learn from other organisations working towards a joint goal. This second lesson – seek out expert support – allowed us to draw on some of the sharpest minds in international aid. We arranged meetings with the United States Agency for International Development and New Zealand’s Honorary Consulate in Ukraine to share our experience and uncover where we could adapt our efforts to meet the task at hand.

Work with those who have first-hand experience

The final lesson came from the inspiring experience we had working with those close to the conflict – collaborating with people on the ground.

While Operation 322 was built on our strengths and informed by expert opinion, it was delivered by working together with regional mayors, government officials and other charities on the Polish-Ukraine border. This collaboration meant that our aid was able to reach those who needed it most while also gaining an acute understanding of the specific needs of the Ukrainian people. We also asked recipients of the aid what they wanted. Because of their feedback, we were able to gain a deep understanding of the need, and the impact of our support.

International crises create opportunities and challenges for charities. Operation 322 taught us that, by drawing on existing strengths, receiving expert support, and working with people with a first-hand experience of the issue, charities can make a positive difference even in the most testing circumstances.

    Share Story:

Recent Stories

How is the food and agricultural crisis affecting charity investment portfolios?
Charity Times editor, Lauren Weymouth, is joined by Jeneiv Shah, portfolio manager at Sarasin & Partners to discuss how the current pressures placed on agriculture and the wider food system is affecting charity investment portfolios.