A lorry pulled away from Balteagh Rectory on Saturday 12th March loaded with items destined for Eastern Europe where they’ll be used to support children displaced from their homes in war-torn Ukraine. They were raised in response to an appeal begun by a young member of the Parish of Aghanloo, Balteagh, Carrick and Tamlaghtard.

Eleven-year-old Megan (surname withheld in line with child safeguarding requirements) was appalled by the scenes of suffering she had seen on television after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. “I used to knit trauma teddies, along with my grandmother, and when I saw the way the children in Ukraine were suffering, I wanted to do something to help.”

Megan appealed through her church for people to donate coats, scarves, blankets, hats and toy teddy bears. Both she, and the local Rector, Rev Rhys Jones, were overwhelmed by the response.

“We’re four small country churches,” Rev Jones said, “two thousand miles from Ukraine, on the other side of Europe. Initially, I think, people felt a bit powerless, unsure what they could do to help the people of Ukraine – especially the youngsters there. It took one of our own young people, eleven-year-old Megan, to show us how we could respond. The response has been amazing. I’m not surprised by our people’s generosity but I have been overwhelmed by it.”

On Saturday morning, volunteers gathered at the rectory to help load up the lorry. For over a week, the rectory and the parish hall had been transformed into a depot where people could drop off donations. “People were landing with boxes and bags full of stuff,” said Diocesan reader Brian Robinson, “carloads of clothes, toys, packs of nappies. People came from right across the community, and from as far away as Dungiven, Bovevagh and Magilligan, to support Megan’s appeal. The response has been phenomenal.”

Prior to the lorry’s departure, Megan stood on the vehicle and thanked everyone who had contributed or supported the appeal, including Drumachose Primary School, Bovevagh Scouts and First Limavady Girls’ Brigade. And there was a spontaneous round of applause from her fellow parishioners in recognition of her initiative and effort.