The scheme was inspired by a visit from the youth team and staff from Laos Rugby, in 2015 when they took part in the “Touraid festival” and were hosted by Shrewsbury House School.
With a third of the population of Laos surviving on less than £1 per day, the majority of children play rugby in bare feet or in flip-flops on rough and stony ground which often leads to preventable injuries. Providing used sports shoes can prevent such injuries and help to boost and sustain participation in the development programme.
The campaign has been driven by Steve Blevins, Project Manager for CONVERSION and a Shrewsbury House parent. The aim of the project has been to source and donate 500 pairs per year of used sports shoes to the boys and girls in Laos engaged in the Youth Rugby development programme. Since launching in April 2016, this goal has been surpassed and the total number of shoes collected to send out to Laos was around 550 pairs of sports shoes. These were shipped via DHL, another supporter of the scheme and were distributed to children in Laos in November 2016. Further collections are already underway for the 2017 shipment.
The project has also spread from Shrewsbury House and Shrewsbury Lodge Schools to Teddington RFC, after Aidan Weymouth (SHS Year 7) introduced CONVERSION to his local rugby club.
Shrewsbury House School was visited by His Excellency, Sayakane Sisouvong, the Lao Ambassador to the UK, Cllr Geoff Austin, Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston and James Berry MP, to recognise this sports shoes donation scheme driven by local parents, schools and clubs in the area.
Other supporters of the scheme include:
YOUMANITY - a non profit organization established to celebrate multi-culturalism, support social integration and promote human rights actively promote the scheme.
DHL are providing vital support to ensure the swift and efficient shipping of the shoes to Laos.
Reflections on the success of the project so far:
His Excellency, Sayakane Sisouvong said “On behalf of the Lao Embassy in London and Lao children, I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Shrewsbury House School and the community in the Royal Borough of Kingston for the generous assistance which is very precious for the needy children. It is an excellent start to help Lao children to play rugby with safety. I look forward to receiving more in kind assistance such as reading books, clothes, second hand computers and school materials as these are extremely useful in many remote areas of Laos.”
The Mayor RBK, Mr Geoff Austin commented that the scheme was “A wonderful way to recycle used sports shoes to benefit youngsters taking up the sport in a country new to rugby.”
James Berry MP for Kingston & Surbiton said “I warmly congratulate the boys and parents of Shrewsbury House School and Teddington Rugby Club for collecting 500 pairs of used sports shoes to send to children in Laos. As the Laos Ambassador told us, this will have a lasting impact on the lives of many children in deprived parts of Laos. I hope this project goes from strength to strength and that local people will support it by donating their used sports shoes.”
Steve Blevins, Project Manager & SHS Parent commented “Today was a significant and valuable milestone in the evolution of the CONVERSION sports shoes collection scheme. The presence and endorsement by our esteemed guests will make a difference to what we can achieve further. This scheme was started with an aspiration of sending 500 pairs of shoes per year to support the tremendous work being done by the “Champa Ban” youth rugby development programme in Laos. We, as a community surpassed that target in just 4 months! From the outset the generosity of all of the donors and supporters of the scheme has be heart-warming and only serves to drive me to grow the scheme. There can be no other more satisfying feeling creating opportunities for young children.”
Kevin Doble, Executive Headmaster added “SHS is so pleased to embrace the CONVERSION project, which will have a profound and immeasurable impact on safe and enjoyable access to a wonderful, inclusive team sport for children in an area of Laos in which our school community is starting to build such an exciting relationship. The teachers, parents and pupils at Shrewsbury House and Shrewsbury Lodge Schools look forward to enhancing our connections further in due course, including enjoying educational and social links with our new friends.”