Tove Benefice Supports Ukraine
Since the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, Tove Benefice in Towcester has been doing all it can to support both the civilians suffering as a result of the conflict in Ukraine and also those who have moved to the UK as guests of families in the area.
Initially the support focused on aid, with St Lawrence’s Church proactively becoming a regional collection and sorting point for over 20 tonnes of aid which was transported directly to affected cities in Ukraine. Led by Rev’d Paula Challen’s husband, Steve, this mammoth effort at times involved more than 25 volunteers in the local community coming together in Church, and a number of local van owners to move the aid to lorries waiting in Northampton. This proved to be just the start of the support however as there was an additional call to gather aid and help support delivery to a new refugee centre in Koblynica, Poland where many of those fleeing the war were being cared for.
Over the late spring and summer months the focus moved to helping those that had relocated to the UK staying with host families. A concert in May raised funds for the DEC and the work the Benefice is doing with local Ukrainian families. Following this a welcome picnic including the Mayor and local MP Dame Andrea Leadsom was arranged in the vicarage gardens for the families and their hosts enabling them to meet and connect. Thanks to a generous donor, a similar event was held in August, offering an afternoon BBQ and refreshments, a fantastic bouncy castle and lots of other games for the younger ones laid out throughout the beautiful Vicarage Garden.
Rev’d Paula said “We were blessed with great weather, and it was wonderful to see some familiar faces but also lots of new ones. Aside to seeing people enjoy themselves and feel welcome, the afternoon provided a valuable opportunity for people to meet and connect. An important space for both guests and hosts to share their stories and support one another. One example was expressed so sincerely by a lady who is being hosted in a surrounding village saying that this was the first time since moving to England that her daughter has been able to play with another Ukrainian child. For me that says it all!”
In October another aid collection was organised by Steve, this time in support of a local Ukrainian guest, Oleh Naida, who bought a 4x4 vehicle he wished to donate to the military effort in his home country. Compelled not to see a vehicle drive the lengthy journey empty, the community again came together raising £4000 in two weeks to fill the vehicle with medical aid.
After a 1300 mile drive in just two days, Oleh arrived in Lviv the evening before the city, along with many others, was subject to the escalated missile strikes on Monday 10th October. Not deterred, on the 23rd Of November Oleh took out a second vehicle to Lviv, this time filled with donated winter humanitarian aid and further medical supplies collected via the Tove Benefice. Unfortunately this vehicle broke down on the autobahn in Germany late the same evening. There have been many complications to the recovery of this aid mission, however on 16th December Oleh set off for Dortmund in a 4x4 Pick-up accompanied by Ben Irons, a Jeep trained mechanic who has offered to help diagnose the issue for Oleh. Once in Germany Ben will set to work on the Jeep whilst Oleh moves the aid to the pick-up for his onward journey to Lviv. Ben will fly then fly back to the UK whilsy Oleh will continue to Ukraine with the Aid. All being well, Oleh plans to then return to Germany to collect the Jeep and finish its journey also by Ukraine; both vehicles have been funded by the Ukraine community and are being donated to the military effort. Oleh is already planning his next drive to Lviv along with Paul Parsons in February, Further details of this trip can be found here.
During November and December, a very significant amount of aid has been collected from across the Tove Benefice, and also Stoke Bruerne, including a large amount of Christmas presents for orphans in Ukraine. These items have been taken in a number of trailer runs to Northampton, filling many 4 x 4 pick-ups that were being transported to Lviv in lorries. Once in Lviv the Aid will be distributed by volunteer networks to areas where the aid is most needed.