AN appeal for unwanted shoes has led a young woman on an inspirational journey to Africa.
Amy Coward, 23, who works as a stock room team leader at the Clarks store in Bolton’s Crompton Place shopping centre, is an ambassador for the company’s Shoebiz Appeal and has been out to Africa to see just how the money she helps raise is spent.
The nationwide Clarks appeal collects unwanted shoes and recycles them using the money raised to support UNICEF projects, particularly in Africa.
Amy, from Horwich, a former St Joseph’s RC High School and Sports College pupil, said it doesn’t matter what brand of shoes are handed in for recycling and they want men’s, women’s and children’s shoes in any condition.
She said: “It really doesn’t matter what condition donated shoes are in and they don’t have to be Clarks. They all have a value when broken down into constituent parts for recycling. People can hand in anything from wellies to stilettos, it really doesn’t matter.
“The more shoes we can collect and recycle then the more money we can raise to help fund UNICEF projects.
“I am really proud of Clarks for supporting this appeal and I’m so excited about the project and inspired after seeing how the money we raise has such a massive impact on the lives of children all over the world.”
Amy visited the African country of Zambia and says seeing the UNICEF-run projects up close has really inspired her.
She said: “I was really, really nervous before going out to Zambia. You see so much on the news so I was prepared for the poverty and that the people I was going to meet have such different lives.
“However, everyone was so happy and content despite having so little. We began in the capitol, Lusaka and, although poverty isn’t as bad there compared to the surrounding countryside, people still need help.
“We began by visiting the Linda Open Community School which was formed thanks to UNICEF in 1994 when it had just 150 pupils. That has risen to 726 pupils today.”
Amy also visited other projects in the interior of Zambia where she says there is an even greater need to help children and their families.
She said: “We looked at a school project called Room to Read in Kafue where children and adults are supplied with books. The problem is a lot of the adult population are illiterate and are therefore unable to help their children read.
“By teaching the adults through a literacy project it helps the children in the long term too.”
She added: “I also visited Amundame Market Crèche in Kipiri. The market is the only source of income for many families, most of whom live around the edge of the market.
“By organising a crèche with the support of UNICEF, mums now have somewhere to leave their children while they work in the market. Without the crèche many children would simply be left to fend for themselves as their mums have no other choice.
“From 2004 to the present time more than 620 pupils have been helped and kept safe.”
Amy, and colleagues from other UK Clarks stores, also saw how work to raise awareness of HIV and Aids was having a big effect.
Amy said: “The Community School Project, which started in 2007, helps promote the awareness of these terrible diseases and offers an intervention programme. UNICEF funds the programme and ensures the prevention message gets across.
“The problem is so many of the local people have no idea how Aids develops or how to prevent the spread of HIV. There are so many misconceptions and by teaching people from different villages it is hoped they can go back and pass on the important messages.”
Malcolm Angus, Centre Manager, said Amy’s passion and knowledge for her cause was an inspiration.
He said: “Amy is a terrific example of some of the amazing work which goes on among staff at Crompton Place shopping centre.
“I would urge our shoppers to remember to bring any unwanted shoes with them next time they visit and help support her ongoing efforts.”
Also impressed is manager of the Crompton Place Clarks branch, Helen Read, who said: “It is such a brilliant charity and Amy is so passionate, dedicated and determined to make a difference. She has certainly inspired all 17 members of staff here at Clarks and keeps us on our toes.
“All the staff bring in bags of unwanted shoes for recycling thanks to Amy and she is always running some fundraising competition or another. The fact she went to Zambia is inspiring and she gave the staff a presentation of her work in Africa when she came back.”
Amy added: “Going to Africa has taught me so much and given me a real passion for the work of UNICEF. I am really pleased to be an ambassador for Clarks and their Shoebiz Appeal.
Amy has organised a 1950’s style pin-up party at Ridgemont House, Horwich, on Sunday, July 29 between 1pm and 5pm.
Tickets are £20 for adults and £10 for children and include a catwalk show and afternoon tea. Vintage makeovers will also be on offer and 1950s dress is optional.
For more information visit www.polkadotsandpearls.co.uk
Drop in your unwanted shoes to the specially designated bin in Clarks at Crompton Place during opening hours at any time.
For more information on Crompton Place go to www.crompton-place.co.uk