CONVERSION - a new life for old shoes
The Lao Rugby Federation (LRF) youth development programme “Champa Ban” is providing the opportunity for over 2,000 girls and boys to get involved in a sport that promotes the values of 'Integrity, Discipline, Passion, Respect and Solidarity' both on and off the pitch.
Integrated life-skills sessions also focus on leadership skills, numeracy, literacy and positive attitudes towards gender equality.
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.
The shoe recycling scheme ‘CONVERSION – a new life for old shoes’ 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 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.
The main resources involved have been providing wheelie bins as drop off points for the donated shoes and posters and news articles on the School website to promote the campaign.
Since launching in April 2016, the goal of 500 pairs of shoes has been surpassed – the current total of sports shoes collected to send out to Laos is around 550 pairs. These are shipped to Laos via DHL, another supporter of the scheme.
One Shrewsbury House boy was so inspired by the campaign that he took the idea to his local rugby club, Teddington RFC, and they have also become involved in the project.
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 the sports shoes donation scheme driven by local parents, schools and clubs in the area.
In November 2016, the Ambassador returned to talk about the impact the project was having and we saw the video from the Lao Rugby Federation for the first time.
In October 2023, John Pearson, Deputy High Commissioner to New Zealand; Former British Ambassador to Laos wrote to the school; below are some of the comments he made:
‘It is my understanding that since the scheme was started over 3,500 pairs of used sports shoes have been sent from the Shrewsbury House School and surrounding community to help prevent unnecessary injuries to the young people in the Childfund Rugby schemes. This is significant and clearly beneficial for these young people, some of whom have never owned any shoes’
‘I want to congratulate you in what you are doing with the school and wider community and hope that you are able to continue to work together to help these young people in Laos: while also enriching your own students with the knowledge that they can help others even when so far away’
The project involved boys from Shrewsbury House School (ages 7-13), children from Shrewsbury Lodge School (ages 3-7) and also children from Teddington Rugby Club.
More collections are scheduled for 2023 and we aim to provide 500 pairs of shoes each year.