Nearly 1,400 pairs of shoes are being sent to African children after a mother coordinated a collection with help from across the community.
Kirstie Darnell has been storing, sorting and packaging hundreds of shoes since the start of the year at her home in Hanwell Fields.
The bags were loaded into a van with the help of work colleague Simon Richards today (Thursday, February 22), to be shipped to the Tsusalushaka region of South Africa.
Kirstie and Simon were part of a team of Purple Aid Agents of Change volunteers who helped build a crèche for vulnerable children there and she was inspired to collect the shoes during her visit in November.
“I was shocked by the number of children with one or no shoes so when I got back I pledged to collect 200 pairs of shoes so each child would have one.
“But we’ve had an overwhelming response from the community with my kids, their school, people on Facebook and businesses all donating shoes.”
It started with an appeal of Facebook at Christmas time which snowballed and in less than two months, 1,382 pairs of shoes have been donated.
Kirstie and her two sons Oliver, nine, and Henry, six, spent many evenings putting them in pairs and bagging them up ready for delivery.
Nicholls and Wickes donated large bags for the shoes to be easily transported, which Kirstie is very grateful for.
Simon, who is from Reading, rented a van for the shoes to be taken to a shipping company who will transport it to South Africa – it should take four to six weeks to arrive.
The size of the collection means each child at the centre will have two or three pairs of shoes – some for school, others for playing sport or looking a bit more glamorous.
Any remaining shoes will go to similar crèches in the area, ran by international charity World Vision.
The centres give the children a place to stay while they wait for their parents to finish work, as before they would have nowhere to go after school, and child abuse levels were very high.
“For me, getting involved was because I’m a mum with children of a similar age so I know the difference this will make,” Kirstie said.
“They give the children security and they can dream a little and have a hot meal.”
Kirstie thanked everyone who donated and helped her cause.