Primary school pupils have donated over 100 large bags of school uniforms to help disadvantaged children in Kenya.
The children, who are all pupils at Ecclesall Infant School, High Storrs Road, decided to donate their uniforms after the merger of the the former Ecclesall Infant School and Ecclesall Junior School last year.
Following the merger, a new school logo and uniform was introduced, and although it was not compulsory for parents to buy the new uniforms for their children most did – leaving hundreds items of of clothing left unused.
In total, around 150 large bags full uniform were sent overseas.
Louise Colegate, a parent at the school, decided to set up the initiative and ask parents to donate their children’s unused uniform to pupils in the East African country.
She said: "Whilst the school have not insisted that parents change the uniform, and old ones can still be used, I figured a lot of parents would opt to change,
“Based on this, I liaised with the Royal Air Force charity for around a year and a half about them taking any old uniform.
“Families have now donated around 80 large lack bin liners full of uniform via the Royal Air Force charity.
“The charity has sent most of the uniform to Kenya. Some has been sent to the Kibagare Good News Centre in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, which It sits within the Kibagare slum area and is run by some inspirational nuns.
“The uniforms have now been received and the charity said the children are really pleased.
“There is a requirement or an expectation for children to go school looking smart. There’s a sense of family pride in that.
“Some families have four or five children, but they only have one uniform. They share the uniform between them. Sometimes that means one child going to school one day and other going the next, or one child going in the morning, coming home and giving the uniform to their sibling for the afternoon.
“It shouldn’t have to be like that. Having a uniform can mean the difference between a child going to school or not. It does make me really proud to know we have made a difference.
“I got quite emotional when I saw the photos of the children in the uniform.”
More uniform has now been sent to The Gambia, a small country in West Africa, to be given to children there - but an accident meant it was almost not able to be sent.
The bags full of clothes had been stored in huge bins, but in recent bad weather the bin lids blew open and the uniform got wet.
A dry cleaning company, Goodman Sparks based on Ecclesall Road, volunteered to wash and dry all the clothing for them.
Louise said: “Another 50 or so black bin liners full of uniform are now on the way to The Gambia via two charities; The Derek Bailey Foundation and Goal Global and Goal Global.
“Without the help of Goodman Sparks, the uniform would not have been able to be sent to The Gambia. They washed and dried everything for us for free, in one afternoon, which was arranged with Managing Director Jonathan Sparks via the head office. He was was amazing.
“We took about 50 big bin liners full of uniform to them and they washed it, dried it, folded it and put it in bags for us. All the staff were brilliant.”
“Other uniform has been passed on to the National Police Aid charity to distribute to refugees.”
The connection with the African schools and their pupils will not end with the sending and receiving of the uniform.
Louise said: “We have the contact details of someone at each recipient school and there is a plan to link the the Ecclesall pupils up with these schools and write letters to the pupils in Africa and become pen pals.
“It’s important for the children to learn about what we have done and how important it is too.”
Louise is also encouraging any parents who have school uniform that their children no longer use to donate them to charity.
She said: “I'm hoping to raise awareness if other Sheffield schools are planning a uniform change, there are charities out there that will take them.
“Schools do change their uniform or children grow out of it with nobody to pass to to. It shouldn’t just be put in the bin, especially not when it’s still in a really good condition.
“There are so many charities out there who will take school uniform. I found them just by looking online, so I’m hoping this will encourage people to do the same thing. It's a nice, feel good thing to do.”