Calne mum puts heart and sole into African charity

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Miriam Sawyer and her daughters Beth and Lucy with shoes to go to the Butale Project in Africa Miriam Sawyer and her daughters Beth and Lucy with shoes to go to the Butale Project in Africa

Charity founder Miriam Sawyer has collected hundreds of second-hand shoes for African children and is overwhelmed by the kindness of those who have donated.

Mrs Sawyer, of London Road, Calne, has received more than 500 pairs of shoes for children at the Grace Primary School in Butale, Uganda, since the launch of a footwear appeal in October.

She set up the Butale Project with her husband David two years ago to support children at the school and plans to take the shoes out on a volunteer trip to the school in Easter.

Mrs Sawyer said: “They don’t do Christmas over there and they don’t do birthdays. It’s just not something that’s a priority for them, so when we go over that’s like Christmas for them.

“They are literally waiting for us to arrive and hanging on the van when we leave. Every day we give them something to take home, like pencil cases or shoes.

“Last year we lined all the shoes up in a classroom from the smallest to the biggest and then we lined up all the children from the smallest to the biggest, but we ran out of the bigger sizes.

“This is why we’re doing this so that when we go back we’re able to finish the job.”

Around 130 children benefit from schooling at the Grace Primary School in Butale, which has three new classrooms, two refurbished classrooms, six toilets and a staff room.

They need shoes to protect them from chigoe fleas, or jiggers, which are able to burrow into bare feet and cause infection if they are left untreated.

Charity volunteers are also fundraising for a water borehole through a charity ball in February and have already received £4,000 from a local company that wished to remain anonymous.

Mrs Sawyer has two daughters Lucy, 14, and Beth, 16, who have been out to the school and have shared her excitement at finding anonymous parcels of shoes left on their doorstep.

Beth, a pupil at John Bentley in Calne, said: “Because nothing like this has ever happened to them before, I don’t think they understand at first. They are very happy when they go outside and are comparing shoes with each other. They are proud of their shoes. They all walk along looking at them.”

Mrs Sawyer said: “I’m thankful for everyone’s generosity and it will be an absolute pleasure to give them out on their behalf. The good thing is that once they have outgrown them the next child will get to use them.”

Shoes can be posted to 130 London Road, Calne, SN11 0AH. For more, email thebutaleproject @hotmail.co.uk or call 07952 565269. For more about the project, visit www.the butaleproject.

wix.com/butale-project

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