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Ukraine breast-milk bank project takes off in the West Shore

Once the goal is reached, the money will go to the Children’s Regional Hospital Foundation
Bruce Brown, Stew Young, and Bob Beckett have been trying to raise money to help build a breast milk bank in Western Ukraine. (Black Press Media file photo)

After seeing a 500-gram baby in an incubator in Ukraine stopped former Langford fire chief Bob Beckett in his tracks, he knew he needed to act.

“It stopped me cold,” said Beckett.

Now, an effort to raise over $50,000 to help provide a breast milk bank in western Ukraine is underway on the West Shore. The fundraiser is already at $20,000.

Beckett has witnessed the wounds of war on soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire, but was compelled to act after seeing premature babies fighting for their lives.

It was during Beckett’s second trip to Ukraine in November 2023 that he first saw the plight of these mothers and learned that there was no breast milk facility in the west of the country.

“Their premature births had gone from four to five, on average a month to up to 40 premature births a month.”

During this visit, Beckett and his group started talking to doctors in Ukraine about the importance of breast milk and the high-quality nutrition it delivers to babies.

“Without breast milk, there’s an increased risk of infection and deaths for these babies.”

The $50,000 will buy breast milk analyzing devices, a pasteurizer, refrigerators and freezers. Once the goal is reached, the money will go to the Children’s Regional Hospital Foundation to purchase European equipment.

“We don’t purchase things we think they need. We do this based on what they’re asking for.”

Beckett worked with former Langford Mayor Stew Young and retired RCMP staff sergeant Bruce Brown to help provide medical equipment in Ukraine.

Seeing the effects of war in Ukraine has made it impossible not to get involved, said Young.

“Once you’re over there, and you see the problems that are happening because of war, you really want to help,” he said.

Young will be hosting a West Shore charity golf tournament on June 13 to help raise funds for the breast milk bank.

Beckett is very aware of war weariness, but he is still amazed that the group can get so much support for the war in Ukraine and that every little cent and dollar raised makes a difference.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a $5 donation or a $10,000 donation, 100% of that money gets into the hands of the people of Ukraine.”

There has been support for the people of Ukraine throughout Greater Victoria, with Colwood and Oak Bay helping to donate buses and generators. The city of Langford also donated $5000 to the Ukrainian community of Horokhiv in 2023.

“We want to repeat that in September,” Beckett said.

The group has set up a GoFundMe for people to donate.

READ MORE: West Shore team experiences glimpses of harsh realities in Ukraine

About the Author: Thomas Eley

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