Blythswood and Birchwood: Saving lives in Serbia

“They were screaming in terror, badly cut, bruised and in shock. The inside of the car was full of freezing water ….”

It was the dead of night when the accident happened. As described by an NGO spokesman above, a car carrying three young children, and their father, hit a tree and spun into the dank waters of Serbia’s River Drina. As the chilling waters filled the car, they were helpless against the risk of hypothermia and, possibly, death.

Who would come to their rescue? Traditional Serbian fire engines in the area date back to the 1940s. Their equipment is minimal, with no hydraulic provision to cut the family free. This story could have had a wretched ending.

Happily, though, it didn’t. One NGO in the Global Hand network, , UK charity Blythswood Care, had donated the area a well equipped fire engine as well as safety gear and workwear received from Birchwood Products. The fire engine and its crew saved the day, reaching the family in just 15 minutes and bringing every member to safety. Blythswood had not only prepared the rescue crews with the equipment itself, but had also provided additional training for the teams: tooling them up with UK firemen, paramedics, and electrical and mechanical engineers.

Since 2007, this NGO has donated six fully equipped British fire engines to the Serbian fire service. Through this provision and ongoing support, Blythswood is helping transform Serbian fire fighters into an efficient life saving operation. Ray Avenall, the Blythswood spokesman quoted above, told us, “The fire crews are well trained and enthusiastic, and now they have the tools to do the full range of fire and rescue.”

Blythswood is in this for the long term, so their commitment continues to this day. One difficulty faced for these teams, in the cold of the Serbian mountains, is obtaining warm and durable clothing essential for their operations. With meagre wages and volunteer participation, it is a struggle for them to find the specialised clothing and equipment.

It was, therefore, an easy match for Blythswood to make, when they saw an offer from Birchwood Products on Global Hand. Birchwood is a major brand owner and supplier to the UK construction industry. They offered several thousand pounds worth of safety footwear & workwear including Scruffs-branded boots, trainers, fleeces and jackets. The items, perfect for the Serbian fire service, were soon sent on their way by Blythswood.

Chris Mellor-Dolman from Birchwood Products said, “When you have the opportunity to help those less fortunate in business, you are going to grasp it. These items were end of line, and when Blythswood informed us of their need to supply the fire brigade, we saw this as a spot-on fit with the brand.

“Using Global Hand was a breath of fresh air. Businesses are used to slip-streaming, not facing the wall of bureaucracy often encountered in the attempt to partner with charities. We found it a very favourable experience, a real win-win for everybody.”

If your company is seeking to partner with charities, or you simply want to engage with global needs, Global Hand can help link you with those around the world who are unable to make their voices heard.


Regions / countries / territories

Europe: Serbia

Global issues

Community development