Biscuits baked with plenty of love in an Eltham kitchen are delivering a message of love and hope to people in Ukraine.
David and Maria Hancock have revived an old Eltham recipe for gingernut biscuits and have been baking up a storm since February this year. The couple began baking and selling the biscuits as a way to raise funds to help people in Ukraine, and now some of those biscuits are being handed out in Ukraine itself.
The biscuit recipe is no stranger to war or the battlegrounds of Europe, as it was originally used by Helena Barnard of Eltham, who baked the biscuits to send to her sons and their friends who were fighting in the First World War. Helena had nine children, of which eight were boys. Six of those sons went to fight in the First World War and two never came home.
What began as one mother’s way to send a taste of home and love to her boys overseas, became much bigger, with Helena becoming known as the “Gingernut Lady”, and receiving a British Medal of Honour for her efforts baking four and a half tons of biscuits over the course of the two world wars. Talking to the Stratford Press earlier this year, David said he and Maria were inspired by Helena’s story and had named one of the suites in their boutique bed and breakfast they have developed in Eltham’s old post office building after her.
Maria said when news of the war in Ukraine broke, she was “heartbroken” for the people of Ukraine.
“I am Romanian, I know what life is like when there is a dictator involved. I knew when the news started about Putin threatening Ukraine, he would not stop. He has to be stopped as he will not choose to stop himself.
“What is happening there is really, really tragic and I feel so much for the people of Ukraine, they do not deserve this. We had to do something.”
Do something they did. Maria and David got out Helena’s original recipe and began making the gingernut biscuits that had already sustained so many through two wars in Europe. They began selling them locally, with funds raised going to support relief work in Ukraine.
Just months later the biscuits are being sold in a variety of locations across Taranaki, including the Fenton St Art Collective in Stratford, and the couple has raised around $2500 through their baking.
Last week a small number of those biscuits have flown across the world to Ukraine itself, packed in the luggage of ReliefAid communications director Anne Bulley.
“They will come with me as I visit people impacted by the war in their homeland, and are a way of brightening some people’s day just a little bit, as they bring a message of love with them, a way of letting people know people care about them, people from far away want to help them. It’s a little bit of psychological help as well, that message of care and love, letting them know they aren’t forgotten, that we know what is happening and we care.”
Anne says ReliefAid is a “very Kiwi” organisation.
“We are all about being on the ground and delivering practical help to people who need it. On this trip, we are delivering what we call winter aid, which is things like warm clothes for vulnerable people as winter starts.”
The team will be handing out 6600 hats, jackets and gloves during the visit, as well 6000 thermal blankets, 1000 stoves with fuel and plenty of solar lamps.
“They come with a charging port on them so people can use them to charge their mobile phones as well which helps families communicate with each other and to access information that they need.”
Tarpaulins, hammers and nails are also being handed out, to enable Ukrainians to repair and protect their homes which have been damaged in the constant shelling and gunfire.
“The donations go directly to helping our efforts in Ukraine, helping us get medical supplies, food parcels and other help delivered directly to the people who need it. With most of our team members being volunteers, 97 per cent of funds raised go directly to our efforts on the ground.”
Anne says ReliefAid also partners with other organisations and agencies to want to help but aren’t on the ground in Ukraine themselves.
“We are able to be the go-between where needed, to bring things into Ukraine and deliver stuff to the people who need it. Thanks to the support of people like David and Maria we are able to keep making a difference to people living in the midst of this war.”