Victoria Dunford pictured with Olga, who she says was the only disabled person she knew.
WHEN Moldovan-born Victoria Dunford started work as a healthcare assistant at St Mary’s Hospital last year, she noticed how much equipment the NHS was having to throw away.
But back in Balti, Moldova’s second biggest city, her mum was in a surgical ward, where there wasn’t even a working blood pressure measuring machine.
Victoria said: "There were three holes in the only one they had. My husband, John, told me what he’d seen of Moldovan hospitals was worse than British hospitals in the Second World War."
It was at that point Victoria decided to do something constructive and she launched the charity, MAD-Aid (Medical Aid Delivered).
The idea was simple: Equipment the NHS has no use for any longer is shipped to Moldova to support its struggling health system.
MAD-Aid is also good for the balance sheet of the Island health service — it eliminates the cost of disposing redundant equipment, most of which has to be sent off the IW to be thrown away safely.
The charity was launched in September last year, with the support of the Moldovan government. The Moldovan ambassador came to the Island to give his support to the scheme.
So far, the charity has sent 26 tonnes of hospital equipment to Moldova’s beleaguered health service.
Lorries from Moldova arrive to collect supplies, not just from the Island but from hospitals in Southampton too. Their cargo also includes items from the British Red Cross.
Among items taken to Moldova are electric wheelchairs, which can no longer be used in the UK.
They would otherwise have to be disposed of as hazardous waste, because of their batteries, costing the NHS £15,000.
Victoria said: "We are registered with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier."
The equipment has already helped to stock the children’s ward in the main hospital in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.
Twenty-seven wheelchairs have been supplied to disabled youngsters and a further ten have gone to Second World War veterans.
Moldova’s healthcare system is desperately short of funds, along with many former Soviet countries.
The country, between Romania and Ukraine, declared independence in 1991.
When chemistry graduate Victoria first moved to the Island to start work at Wight Salads seven years ago, she and her fellow Eastern Europeans were surprised to see so many disabled people out and about in the community.
She recalled: "To us, it was amazing and we used to talk about it. I grew up in the Soviet era when you didn’t see disabled people. They were invisible."
In a hangover from those days, disabled and mentally ill people were, until recently, not considered to be part of society.
Victoria has learned Moldova, with a population of around four million, has at least 176,000 disabled people, some of whom are Second World War veterans.
MAD-Aid will mark is first anniversary next month with a fundraising drive, called Push the Wight.
The event, on Sunday, September 29, will feature wheelchair users and able-bodied people in a push between Cowes and Newport along the cycleway.
Victoria, of Cambridge Road, East Cowes, is delighted with with the results the charity of the last 12 months. She said: "I love it, it is so enjoyable."
For details of Push the Wight, visit MAD-Aid.org.uk.