Local pupils gather pre-loved shoes for township children

Pupils across Westmeath are taking part in a national campaign to collect tens of thousands of gently worn shoes from all over Ireland and send them to underprivileged children in Southern African townships.

The campaign runs from April 17 to April 28, and already schools in Kinnegad, Collinstown, Castletown Geoghegan and Rosemount have registered.

Pairs of sports shoes in good condition, but which their owners in Ireland have outgrown are suitable.

Some League of Ireland soccer clubs are organising collections, when fans can donate shoes to player at designated times.

The campaign is run by In My Shoes, who in the pre-Covid world, worked with schools and families across Ireland to collect 15,000 pairs of used sports shoes and send them to school children in South Africa and Lesotho.

This year they have expanded the campaign to ship thousands more pairs of shoes to help underprivileged children.

Shoes are more than just foot protection in an African township; they can be the difference between a hopeful or bleak future.

Helping to improve regular school attendance and completion, where a walk to school can be miles, they give learners safety, improve self-esteem and open doors to after school sporting activities.

The shoes collected will be taken to a sorting facility in Sligo for checking, sorting and packing, over two weeks, by teams of volunteers with diverse backgrounds, from transition year students, to corporate teams, and even a team made up from a Ukrainian community in Sligo.

In My Shoes have significant support from corporations for their campaign.

UPS will collect donated shoes from schools, and Smurfit Kappa are producing thousands of boxes to carry donated shoes to Africa.

In My Shoes are working with a host of South African NGOs and organisations, including Connect Support Academy, Catch Trust and Masi Sports.

In My Shoes was Sligo native Ciarán McHugh came up with when he saw township kids in South Africa going barefoot.

He said: “I have never been involved in a project before where so many wanted to do so much for so little. In My Shoes seems to be a cause of its time – a simple idea but one with the potential to affect thousands of lives, in however small a way, by connecting individual acts of kindness.

“With shoes come school, and education, a hopeful future”

See inmyshoescharity.org. The campaign runs on April 17-28, and schools can register via the website now.