By Mark Wigston, who travelled with us in 2014
My wife, Clare, and I are very keen travellers and have been fortunate enough to travel to many countries across the globe.
We have thoroughly enjoyed our travels, but we have been acutely aware of the severe poverty that is all too evident in many of the countries we have visited. At the same time, we have received a very warm and genuine welcome from those people who have the least 'material' wealth.
With this in mind, we wanted to give something back to the people we met along the way. My wife manages the oldest independent shoe shop in England, The Golden Boot in Maidstone. Through the generosity of the owners, company reps, customers, friends and family we started to fill our garage with all manner of shoes.
Transporting 85 pairs of donated shoes
When Clare and I decided to revisit Southern Tanzania we asked our Audley specialist, Liberty, whether she could help.
She put together a wonderful itinerary for us to Lake Manze Camp in the Selous Game Reserve, Mdonya Old River Camp in Ruaha National Park and Butiama Hotel on Mafia Island. And she was able to advise us on a suitable recipient for our shoe donation.
Liberty arranged for us to be met by a local representative of the organisation administering the donation. We arrived and were immediately greeted by the local agent where we transferred the 85 pairs of shoes.
A few days after we returned from our safari, some pictures of the children receiving their shoes arrived. It made all the effort worthwhile.
Tanzanian school children with their new shoes
A little boy shows off his new shoes
In Tanzania shoes will be worn and passed on
Where Mark and Clare's shoes are helping people in Tanzania
Receiving a surprise request like Clare and Mark's is always welcome. We have a long list of local contacts. In this case, it was friends who run lodges in extremely remote areas of Tanzania who provided the answer.
Sharing the donation
With such a large number of new shoes so kindly donated, it was decided to split the benefit. The first half was sent to the village of Shebo Meza in the centre of the Amani Nature Reserve. Far from the modern world, the people of the Sambaa tribe support themselves through subsistence farming. The adult wage is often less than $1 a day.
The second half went west, to the village of Itete deep in the Kilombero Valley. Over the past ten years, the people have battled to bring fresh water to the village and for the construction of a front-line medical centre. But they remain poor, completely reliant upon agriculture, which, if the rains fail, is often barely enough to sustain life.