March 28, 2022 5 Comments
It takes only a few seconds of the images flickering across the screen on any television news station to see the devastation and desperation.
Since the first days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has been beamed across the world on a nonstop loop. Explosions and fire. Collapsed buildings and frantic search-and-rescue operations.
A slightly deeper look reveals that, despite their dedication and valiant efforts, the first responders in Ukraine are largely ill-equipped to respond to the levels of emergencies that they are called to daily.
Now Project Joint Guardian, an effort led by Southern California firefighter and Army veteran Eric Hille, has collected a stockpile of donated equipment and supplies, as well as recruited hundreds of volunteers willing to go into Ukraine to supply, train and work alongside the local first responders.
Those who raised their hands to go are professional and volunteer firefighters, paramedics and EMTs from across the United States, Canada and beyond.
The final hurdle is securing the funding necessary to get the equipment and the first group of volunteers into Ukraine so they can begin their work.
It’s no small task to transport thousands of pounds of turnout gear and ballistics, not to mention fire suppression equipment extraction tools and medical supplies into a war zone. Project Joint Guardian is ready to take off as soon as possible, but it must first raise $40,000 to get there.
“This is a first-of-its-kind aid mission for firefighters going into a hostile zone,” said Hille, who twice deployed into hostile areas during his time in the Army. “It’s amazing how many people volunteered and they didn’t even think twice about it.”
So starting now throughout April, Fire Dept. Coffee will direct all donations to our charitable foundation to support Project Joint Guardian.
Read on to learn more about Project Guardian, the mission that Hille has launched to help our brothers and sisters in Ukraine during this fight for their survival. Then we hope you’ll consider contributing what you can to this important mission.
Eric Hille is an engineer with the San Miguel Fire Department in Southern California. He now also runs a nonprofit called US/Mexico Firefighters United that is dedicated to equipping, training and collaborating with fire departments in Mexico.
As Hille watched the news in the early days of the Russian invasion, he saw it all unfold through the lens of a first responder. He knew immediately that the odds were stacked against them. Then he saw reports of donated aid supplies meant for the people of Ukraine left sitting at the border rather than moving through the country to the places they’re needed most.
Because of his work with his nonprofit, he felt confident that he could marshall enough resources to make a difference in the war-torn country.
A simple post on his personal Facebook page set everything in motion.
“Any firefighters interested in a mission to Ukraine to help our brothers and sisters out over there?? Maybe we could organize a mission.🇺🇸 🇺🇦 “
The responses came pouring in. Clearly, many others had wished that, somehow, they could help. They just didn’t know how to go about it.
Soon, Hille’s email inbox filled with a seemingly endless string of firefighters, paramedics and EMTs asking how they could participate. Calls for fire departments and suppliers to donate equipment and gear were met with enthusiastic support.
The next hurdle was the logistics, so Hille reached out to the Red Cross and several other aid organizations. The response was always the same. They could get the equipment into the country, but once there, they didn’t know what to do with it.
“We get into Mexico and do all this stuff,” Hille thought. “What would it take to get firefighters on a plane to escort it in?”
Through a Northern California firefighter of Ukrainian descent, Hille made connections with fire and emergency services officials in Ukraine who agreed to work with Project Joint Guardian.
Meanwhile, the donations kept coming — power units, combi tools, cutters, struts, ballistics gear, communications equipment, combat medic bags and a lot more.
Volunteers kept throwing their name in the hat, ready to hop aboard a plane at a moment’s notice. Hille has vetted hundreds of them to confirm their professional experience and qualifications.
The first team of 10 volunteers, which will include Hille, will fly into Poland with the donated equipment before traveling over ground into Ukraine, where they will deliver the gear and spend 14 days training and supporting their Ukrainian counterparts. Then they will be replaced by the next group of 10, and the cycle will repeat as long as the resources and the need are there.
“Once we get the first team airborne and people can see, ‘Wow it actually worked,’ we’re not going to have trouble securing funds,” Hille said. “It’s like starting a new company. It’s getting it going to show that it works that’s the toughest part.”
The expense is by far the greatest at the beginning because of the need to transport the bulk of the equipment. From there, smaller amounts of subsequent funding will focus on the transport of the volunteers and minor resupply needs.
Though there is still a long way to go to make it happen, Hille sees the groundswell of support and is itching to start making a real impact on the ground in Ukraine.
“People see where our heart is with this,” he said. “We’re not an international aid agency. We’re a group of firefighters with a nonprofit, and we are trying to provide aid for our brothers and sisters who have been working nonstop for a month every day.”
At Fire Dept. Coffee, we are inspired by Eric Hille and all who have donated and volunteered to support this extraordinary, first-of-its-kind aid mission.
The spirit of selflessness and service is what bonds us to our fellow first responders in Ukraine, and we want to do all we can to help make Project Joint Guardian a success.
If you’re able to donate to help fund the extraordinary costs of transporting these volunteers and the desperately needed emergency equipment and supplies, we would be so grateful.
Simply click the button below to visit the Fire Dept. Foundation website. Then scroll to the bottom of the page and select “Donate.” You’ll be taken to a PayPal page to complete the donation.
In the comments area of the donation page, we invite you to leave a message of support for Hille and the volunteers of Project Joint Guardian.
Thanks in advance for anything you can do to support this mission.
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