The North East Autism Society (NEAS) is calling on support from local people and businesses across the region, ahead of a personal humanitarian mission to Poland by Chief Executive John Phillipson later this week.

Mr Phillipson will be joining a convoy of vehicles, led by Durham County Councillor Carl Marshall, departing from Stanley, County Durham, on April 7th and heading to the city of Biala Podlaska, close to the Belarus-Ukraine border.

Once there, he will visit local autism charity Wspolny Swiat, having recently forged a relationship with the organisation which offers services not too dissimilar from those operated by NEAS.

 “At the North East Autism Society, access to education is something we are extremely passionate about,” Mr Phillipson said. “Wspolny Swiat told us they are in need of second-hand laptops, computers and tablets to enable the refugee children in their care to have a little bit of normality at what is no doubt a very distressing and dysregulating time for them.

Despite being in the grips of war, I cannot commend the Ukrainian government enough for the onus they have placed on maintaining learning for the millions of children now displaced from their homes, and if we can support this effort in some small way, then we will do everything in our power to do so.

Wspolny Swiat, which offers a range of services for autistic children, has taken in more than 50 Ukrainian refugees to date, 32 of whom are children. One female refugee has also given birth to a new-born baby since arriving at the charity’s headquarters in Poland’s east.

As the North East Autism Society is a UK charity, NEAS will not be using any of its own charitable funds for the mission.

However the charity has been inundated with donations from its staff and families of individuals who access its services, as well as supporters and local businesses, including Tesco’s Trinity Square store in Gateshead which has kindly donated several crates of food, toiletries and sanitary items in support of the appeal.

 “Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we felt compelled as an organisation to do whatever we could to help the Ukrainian people,” Mr Phillipson added, “as well as the selfless people in Poland who have opened up their homes and businesses to their neighbours.

“This appeal is something our staff feel very strongly about and it is actually thanks to one of our employees, who is Polish, that we were able to connect with Wspolny Swiat. While I wish the partnership had been formed under different circumstances, I am very much looking forward to continuing to work with them as they share our vision for creating acceptance and championing the voices of autistic and neurodivergent individuals.”

The charity, based in Chester-le-Street, will be accepting physical donations in the form of non-perishable goods, toiletries and sanitary items, children’s food and toiletries, baby items and unwanted tech items (in working condition) such as laptops, tablets, computers and headphones, until Wednesday afternoon (April 6th).

Donations can be delivered to the charity’s headquarters in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, or deliveries can be arranged at its other sites across the region.

If you would like to get involved with the campaign email [email protected] or call 0191 4924389.

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