A ZEBRA-STRIPED van is grazing on shoes around Rotherham to help African children to attend school.
The vehicle belongs to Africa’s Gift, an organisation sending supplies and volunteers to the continent.
The Clifton-based charity works with UK schools, churches and firms with communities in Africa, and its latest campaign is collecting black shoes for children - an expensive barrier to attending school in some communities.
Ken Dunn (pictured), who founded Africa’s Gift ten years ago while still working as a deputy head teacher at a Sheffield School, said: “The shoe collection is born from our work in African communities, who asked us whether we can assist with footwear.
“Education is a catalyst for change and getting footwear there can be the difference to between kids going to school and not.”
Ken - who lives in Clifton and began his teaching career at Clifton School - fell in love with Africa when he first took students there.
“I’ve always been a keen photographer and climber,” said Ken. “I had been to South America and the Himalayas.
“When I went on a trip to Africa I decided that I didn’t want to just pass through its communities, but to engage with them.
“That was a real change for me. It was an extraordinary experience and I’m glad to be able to share that with other people.”
As a teacher, Ken took school groups to engage with “deep and meaningful experiences” in Zambia, South Africa, Lesotho and elsewhere.
Now several local schools are involved with projects there, facilitated by the charity.
He added: “We have this image of Africa always being on the receiving end, but I’ve found that if you give to Africa, you receive so much more.
“I’m taking St Bernard’s Catholic High School on their third visit to Lesotho soon.
“They have transformed a school there, given people toilets, greater food security and all sorts.
“And in working on those projects they receive Africa’s gift - humanity, the realisation of what life is all about and where their priorities should be.”
Next month, Ken will take a group of adult volunteers from Rotherham to Durban, where they will help promote a clean cooking stove.
“I’m a firm believer in what Nelson Mandela said - that education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world,” said Ken.
“Smoke from open fires kills one person every 20 seconds in the developing world.
“These fuel-efficient stoves reduce the amount of wood burned, reduce the time spent foraging and combat deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning.”
The charity will leave shoe collection bins - donated by Parkgate firm MGB Plastics - in churches, schools and workplaces which request them.
“The shoes are an introduction to our work and a call to action,” said Ken.
“But if people want to come to Africa, see it up close, make a real difference and have their lives changed, we can arrange that.”
Visit the Africa's Gift website for more information on the charity’s work and how to get involved - as an individual, community group or business.
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