Ukes for Ukraine

With the war in Ukraine showing no signs of abating and the access to the simple things that we take for granted in life like music and learning being a precious and rare commodity in the country right now, a school headmaster from a boarding prep school near Horsham in West Sussex decided to gather many useful items, pack the school minibus and head to the Ukrainian/Polish Border.

Tom Rogerson, the Headteacher of Cottesmore, drove to the Ukraine border as part of a humanitarian aid project. He was joined by Martin Binyon, an old friend with whom he formed a band at school – and they’re still playing music together in the same band. They took essential items for refugees crossing the border by foot but also, following Tom’s passion for music, a great deal of Ukuleles – 40 to be exact from GAK (Guitar Amp & Keyboard Emporium) in Brighton, all stuffed with sweets. It took three days to drive to the border gate and they were welcomed with open arms by UK charity Siobhan’s Trust which was instrumental in helping them distribute both the essential items, soft toys, and the Ukeleles. 

Initially, Tom handed the Ukuleles out to individuals at the border crossing, they then found a local arts centre that was being used to offer children some school-style lessons including music. He then donated a good number of Ukuleles to the volunteer organisers in the arts centre, so that after having a few days of lessons (while waiting to be relocated) the children who had been learning on a Ukulele could then leave with one.

GAK made the ‘Ukes for Ukraine’ idea come to life,” Tom said. “The team at GAK donated a large number of Ukuleles for Cottesmore School’s humanitarian aid project. It was wonderful that the Ukuleles were then taken on by a creative arts Centre near the border. We also gave them to individuals in the temporary shelter. Thank you so much to the GAK team for making the idea happen” he continued.

Someone had even driven over with a pizza oven and spent all day and night giving out pizzas. Tom was aware this was happening before setting off and so he turned up with a few sacks of flour to help things go further.

GAK Managing Director, Max McKellar, said “Tom’s dedication and proactiveness has to be admired. What a guy. Obviously, the war in Ukraine is awful for everyone involved, you can’t imagine how destabilising and traumatising it must be for the people, especially youngsters who have had their education interrupted and their lives turned upside down. So sending over 40 Ukuleles is the least we can do at GAK. I hope it can bring a little bit of light relief in a time of extreme darkness for the people of Ukraine.”

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