On Sunday 9th May, World Jewish Relief (WJR) staff and supporters gathered in North London for the send off for this year’s Mission Impossible (MI) team, which embarked on its 2000 km journey to Lithuania and Latvia.
Mission Impossible – now in its seventh year – is a unique project that sees committed WJR volunteers take a week out of their lives to drive new left hand drive vans to various locations in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Not only are these volunteers embarking on a three day nonstop journey, but they have raised the funds themselves to purchase the vans complete with spare parts and running costs.
This year’s mission is providing two vehicles to be handed over to the Jewish communities of Vilnius and Riga in Lithuania and Latvia respectively. Both communities have seen a dramatic increase in the levels of poverty and vulnerability over the last year given how badly hit both countries have been by the global recession.
Once handed over, the vans will be used to provide assistance to individuals living in some of the remote periphery villages, either by delivering supplies to them or helping to bring individuals to community centers to be part of communal activities.
Mission Impossible is part of WJR’s Gifts in Kind (GiK) program, which over the past two years has sent £7m worth of items including: warm bedding, hygiene and sanitary items, good quality winter clothing, boots and shoes and Judaica to needy Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In advance of this year’s Mission Impossible, GiK has sent a 40 foot trailer filled with winter relief to the Baltic countries, including 31,000 kilos of tinned goods, warm clothing, toiletries and toys.
Since 2003, Mission Impossible has raised almost £300,000 with each volunteer raising up to £5000 to cover the purchase of the vans, as well as each contributing to the cost of the trip.