“She was nearly crying when I told her I was going out, saying, ‘You watch yourself son.’
“She gave me a tenner and asked, ‘Will you give that to some wain in Ukraine?’ I nearly burst out crying when she said that,” explained Sean.
The Top of the Hil-native said it was probably the most moving example he has witnessed of people’s willingness to get much needed supplies to the far side of Europe.
Sean decided to get involved in the humanitarian relief effort when he spotted an appeal for donations and HGV drivers from Alliance Councillor Philip McKinney in the Derry Journal.
“I just made the call on the Saturday morning and the rest is history. I’ve been working with Philip every day since loading three trailer loads,” he said.
The reaction of the people of Derry as the disaster has unfolded in the east has been extraordinary, he says.
“The people in Derry, everyone, have stood up. The donations have been overwhelming. There’s been a big response from families in Derry, the women and their children, because they brought everything together with the donations through the schools,” said Sean.
Having gathered a huge amount of goods including clothes, medicines, creams, sanitary items and toilet rolls, they were loaded on to three vehicles supplied by Terry Quigley, proprietor B-Fast transport.
Sean thanked everyone who has contributed to the relief appeal including a number of individuals who have covered the cost of getting the lorries to the continent.
“We did this voluntarily but I know a lot of business people that stood up to the plate and gave us donations for our diesel and boat fares as it’s expensive to get the lorries out there,” he said.
The three-lorry convoy set off from Derry on Tuesday and is expected to make it to the Ukraine by Thursday or Friday of this week.
“We are taking this up to the Polish/Ukraine border. The first lorry that went out from Drumahoe last week got up to the border and only eight miles away there was a strike. That’s how close it is,” he said.
Such was the success of the appeal that a number of pallets of goods had to be left behind at B-Fast’s depot in Campsie and Sean encouraged any other drivers setting off for Ukraine in the interim to get in touch if they are able to take the items.
He said it’s been heart-warming to witness the compassion of the people of Derry for their sisters and brothers in Ukraine over the past few weeks.
“I’ve got friendly with these councillors, Darren Guy from the UUP and Philip McKinney from Alliance. I didn’t know them before but they are just ordinary people like ourselves and everybody stood up to the plate.
“I’m glad I did it. Everybody has worked hard and it’s a big thing from both sides of the community. Everybody has stood together and come together for a change.”