Group journeys 1,400 miles to deliver Christmas presents from Lincolnshire to Ukrainian children

Children were given Christmas boxes to enjoy. Credit: Helping our Ukrainian Friends

A man from Lincolnshire has just returned home from his sixth trip driving donations and much needed supplies abroad to refugees displaced by the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This time his supplies included Christmas presents for children in schools and hospitals across Ukraine, alongside festive boxes created by school pupils in Doncaster and Dronfield.

Richard Astle is part of the Help Our Ukrainian Friends group which operates out of a small village near Stamford. As part of their Christmas Campaign, they've been gathering together much needed supplies including generators, food and clothing donations.

At the end of November, three vans carrying around 5 tonnes of food, warm clothes and Christmas boxes set off from Peterborough, travelling through Germany and arriving in Poland on Friday 2 December. 

Presents were handed out in Sumy Oblast, Ukraine. Credit: Helping Our Ukrainian Friends

The team of six drivers from Peterborough, Doncaster and Dronfield were joined in Gliwice by four other members of the team who helped to unload the vans and reload onto trucks bound for Ukraine. 

In addition to the donations brought from Peterborough and Lincolnshire, the project also funded the purchase of 20 generators in Poland, which were also loaded onto the lorries.

Determined to spread festive cheer, as part of the Christmas Campaign, the group worked with their Ukrainian friends in Poland to arrange a Christmas party for Ukrainian refugee children there. 

The festivities took place in a church where more than 100 children enjoyed an evening of music and singing.

Festive boxes were created by schoolchildren in Yorkshire and North Derbyshire. Credit: Helping Our Ukrainian Friends

Richard explains: "120 children joined us in a church in Gliwice for an evening of music and singing, including a very average rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas by the UK team!

"We had also brought with us small gifts for each of the children. Many Ukrainian ladies who joined us for the evening came up to us to say how important such support and messages of hope are to them and their children."

Richard then joined the donation trucks travelling across Poland, and over the border into Ukraine to their destination near Rivne, where their contact Pastor Aleksander was ready to accept donations.

Richard explains: "We unloaded all the donations and were able to visit the church where the local school is currently based in the basement. 

A donated generators reaches a community hub and cafe in central Kyiv. Credit: Helping Our Ukrainian Friends

"Their normal building is unsafe as it has only a covered trench, rather than a concrete basement, for use in air raids. 

"One of the generators will ensure that they don’t have to sit in the basement in the dark, when the electricity is off (it is currently only on 4 hours a day).

"We gave out 120 of the Christmas boxes, each one of which had been created by children at schools in Helpston, Oundle, Peterborough, Dronfield and Doncaster."

The other generators have been distributed to community venues across Ukraine, while the remaining food and clothes has been handed out to communities in Sumy Oblast and villages around Kherson.

Donations being delivered to Sumy Oblast Credit: Helping Our Ukrainian Friends

Richard says the group is already thinking about how they can help further, he says: "We are looking at further trips out with donated food and clothes and potentially a large Easter Campaign. 

"We hope to support another Summer Camp for Ukrainian refugee children in summer 2023 and to continue our support for the Kyiv Heart Institute through the purchase of heart valves."

He says all of the work could not be done without the support of people providing donations: "We would like to thank everyone involved for their support – whether donating food and clothes, making financial donations to help us buy generators and heart valves, helping children to create Christmas Boxes or heaving heavy boxes into vans; it all matters and it all makes a difference."

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