Message in an aid package: Italian girl sends hope to Ukrainian children

ROME, March 4 (Reuters) - Gioia Maria, a 10-year-old Italian girl, says she would like to do more for people suffering from the war in Ukraine "but I'm very small".

So every night, she prays. And she wants Ukrainian children to know it.

The girl wrote a letter in her best English on a large yellow sheet of paper and gave it to her mother to bring to a church collecting food, medicine and clothing to be sent to Ukraine and border areas taking in refugees.

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"Dear Ukrainian friends, my name is Gioia Maria. And I'm Italian. I'm very sorry for this horrible war. I'm very close to you with my heart. I'd very like to do more, but I'm very small and far away. Every night I pray for you and I ask God to help you. With love. Gioia Maria." Six heart signs follow her name.

Her mother, Katherine Valerio, said Gioia Maria used her savings to buy gifts for Ukrainian children to send along with the letter.

"I have two daughters, a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old, and they ask me why all this is happening and above all, they ask me how they can help these children," she said amid the bustle of volunteers receiving, sorting and packing donations outside Santa Sofia church in Rome's outskirts.

The parish for Rome's Ukrainian Catholic community has become a magnet for donations from throughout the Italian capital. The appeal has been so successful that volunteers have to direct cars coming into the parking lot.

"We hope this war will end as soon as possible. We are worried because Ukraine is our homeland, the country where we were born and where we hope to return," said Father Marko Yaroslav Semehen, the parish priest. "People feel a great sense of injustice."

Gioia Maria hopes her letter will help ease some of the pain.

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Writing by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alison Williams

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