Supporters and friends of Medical Aid for Poland (MAPF) gathered in Ealing on Saturday for their annual AGM and post-Christmas party. The Polish folk dance troupe Zywiec took centre stage and the event was introduced by Ealing Parish Priest Fr Pawel Nawalaniec and the chairman Dr Bozena Laskiewicz.
MAPF is a London-based charity set up in 1981, just before the imposition of Martial Law in Poland by the Communist government. Answering an appeal by Lech Walesa, leader of Solidarity, ex-pat Poles living in Britain and their English friends, came together to help in the crisis. Poland lacked the most essential medical supplies. MAPF collected surplus stock donated by doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms and sent it to Poland in 30-tonne trucks.
It was thought help would be only needed for a few months. But altogether 335 trucks, manned by volunteers, were sent out over the next 15 years. While the final truck left in 1996, the work of the charity has developed and grown, providing much-needed support in different parts of Poland.
Secretary Maria Owsianka explained that MAPF now responds to requests from hospitals, care homes, special schools as well as individuals, for a range of different goods: including wheelchairs, prosthesis, medicines and other equipment.
The charity also sometimes offers support and advice. Maria said: "For some time we were sending insulin pumps for children. They cost about £2,000 each. Then we leant that the Polish government had started funding these - but they didn't publicise that fact very much. Now if we get a request for an insulin pump we tell people about the new service."
MAPF is also funding residential homes which need to be upgraded. Maria said: "Some of the care homes in Poland were very old-fashioned, even without mains water. When Poland joined the EU the new regulations meant that they might have had to close if they couldn't afford to install things like new kitchens and bathrooms. So we fund those.
The charity relies on individual donations and has received some generous bequests. They are now administering the Ludwika Wodianikow Polish Children's Fund which is devoted to helping children.
MAPF also hold a number of fundraising events throughout the year, including a ball and a fashion show. In July 1997, they opened the MAPF Charity Shop at 100 South Ealing Road, London W5 4UJ.
The charity's office is based at POSK, 238 - 246 Hammersmith, W6 ORF. If you would like more information, or to become a volunteer tel: 020 8748 1116; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or see their website: www.mapf.org.uk