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Powerful support for Ukraine can be found in your vestry, Ely curate suggests

23 February 2024

He is recycling old candles and shipping them by the ton-and-a-half to Ukraine

Will Lyon Tupman

The Revd Will Lyon Tupman

The Revd Will Lyon Tupman

A CURATE in Ely diocese is recycling old candles and shipping them by the ton-and-a-half to Ukraine, where 40 per cent of the power supply has been damaged since the Russian invasion.

The response to his “Candles for Ukraine” project had been very generous, the Revd Will Lyon Tupman, an Assistant Curate in the St Neots Team Ministry, said. He has been working with the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership, which melts candles down to create new ones, and had appealed to churches and clerics for supplies.

Noticing a full box of used candles in his own church’s vestry had been the “light-bulb moment”, he said. “It’s a win-win for the Church, especially. We can help Ukraine, have a spring-clean of our own vestries, and help the environment by manufacturing these candles for further use — all at the same time.”

His weekly collection has yielded thousands of used candles from village churches in the Cambridge and St Neots areas, Bedfordshire, and Saffron Walden. When his car boot is full, he delivers them to the president of the Sandy Rotary Club, Dudley Smith, who takes them to Swindon.

“It’s a very practical way of doing something,” Fr Lyon Tupman said. “Any new candles donated are shipped by truck and distributed by charities to homes and other places in Ukraine. Candle stumps and broken candles or loose wax are melted down and remanufactured into new candles. These are known as ‘trench candles’ and sent to soldiers on the front line.”

It had been heart-warming, he said, to hear how the people of Ukraine had been helped by the donations, and to know that the community in Ely diocese and surrounding areas was making a difference. “I think people are very keen to support Ukraine in their time of need — but I think it can sometimes be hard to think of what we can practically do to help another country where we live.

“This is a very practical way in which people can do something, and I am so moved at people’s generosity in supporting the scheme.”

Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership was set up in February 2022. The trench candles are a heat source in a country where winter temperatures can fall to -30°.

“The infrastructure in Ukraine is under immense pressure,” the charity said. “Huge areas of the country are regularly without electricity. Just imagine trying to survive in freezing temperatures, perhaps with young children or older family members — hearing missiles obliterating nearby houses.

“This is the reality in much of Eastern Ukraine, and we can help make a difference and further support our Ukrainian friends.”

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