Q & A with Tom Sweetnam
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”
Hi Tom, how old are you and where are you from?
My name is Tom Sweetnam. I’m eighteen years old and I’m from Oxfordshire.”
You’ve started a charity called Kit4Kenya. Can you tell me how that came about?
My friend Archie and I were looking for something to do for charity back in 2017. In the past we’ve done a handful of sponsored and fundraising events and at the time we were both looking for a new challenge to take on. We were in our lower sixth year and didn’t have any public exams that year so we were thinking maybe we could do something a bit more profound. The idea of setting up a charity came up…
Something we both have in common is our huge passion for sport, football in particular. At our school we are lucky enough to have such great sports facilities and equipment through nothing more than shear good fortune. That’s why we both feel so strongly about giving to others less fortunate than ourselves and the thought that some people in the world couldn’t actually play football due to their lack of sports kit and football boots was really saddening to hear. We came up with the idea of recycling sportswear and football kit. We thought that this was quite appealing because obviously recycling is quite a important subject in the world at the moment and it was probably better doing that than directly asking people for money, although we do welcome donations which all go directly to covering the shipping costs of the boots. Recycling kit seemed to be a lot more sustainable and practical.
At the time we were volunteering for an organization called EDCLUB.EDCLUB is an organization which allows students from England to Skype kids in Nairobi Kenya, in an area called the Huruma slum. They give up an hour of their time a week to teach basic skills – english, maths and science – and help them with their homework. We used this connection and contacted the owner of EDCLUB and asked if football boots and sportswear in general was needed. She told us that recently they had built a football pitch in a specific slum in Kenya so it was very much something that they were looking for. We then got in contact with her and she said that she would be able to organised a trial shipment of boots to Kenya.
We went to our school, did a presentation and collected about 250 pairs of boots. We sent over the first 50 organised by EDCLUB in a trial run and had great success. Within two weeks we received photos and videos from the owner of EDCLUB who was out there. Seeing the delight on their faces really spurred us on to do more.”
You’re keen to set up what you’re calling ‘student ambassadors’ at other schools around the UK. Can you tell us more about that and which schools you’re working with?
That’s definitely an aim for the near future! On the charity ambassador front, a Kenyan international footballer recently got in touch and asked if he could work with us as he’s a massive advocate of charities and runs schemes promoting football in Kenya. We’ve been fortunate enough to appoint him as a charity ambassador and hopefully he’s going to spread the word in Kenya. He plays in the first division so that’s great news. On the student ambassador front we are very much looking for people to recognize our charity and give talks because not only does it help spread the word but it also helps donations to the charity ultimately helping the children in Kenya. We’ve done talks at my school, and both our prep school’s, which have all resulted in incredibly generous donations from the pupils and staff there so it’s been fantastic.”
I understand you are planning a trip to the Huruma slum, is that right?
Yes, Archie and I are both taking a year off. We plan to go out there in December for a couple of weeks, visit the children and definitely take over some kit which we’re keeping aside. It’ll be great to see firsthand the effect it’s had.”
How many pairs of shoes have you collected so far?
To date we’ve collected and sent out 500 pairs and infact just yesterday received the photos from our contact out there who visited the slum and showed the effect that our most recent shipment had which is really encouraging.”
I understand that you are you also working with AS Roma?
Yes, we’re working with AS Roma who are a very well-known football club in Italy. We were able to get hold of their excess stock which is the player quality kit. We received about 30 kilos of this kit. We thought it would be a good idea to, with the approval of AS Roma, to send half of it out there and sell half of it. We were lucky enough to raise £2,000 which will cover the fundraising costs for the foreseeable future. More recently we got in contact with Arsenal football club who have also allowed us to collect some of their excess kit because they’re changing sponsors this year. I’ll be going to collect that in the next few weeks.”
What’s your vision for the charity over the next few years?
In the immediate future going out there to visit the children is obviously our main priority. We will organise a football match to celebrate the success our charity has had in sending out kit and boots. Also getting student ambassadors on board to collect mainly the smaller sizes for all of the kids out there in that specific slum is another very important target of ours.”
What would the age range of the kids be?
In the slum it’s probably from about 4 to 14. Sizes 2 to 6 are ideal for this slum. Football boots, training shoes, sportswear, tops, shorts, tennis shoes.
Having said that, all sizes are very gratefully received as every single pair of boots, regardless of the size will be put to use in Kenya.”
Are you interested in any sports equipment? Balls… rackets.. bats?
That’s something which potentially we’re looking to do in the future. We also looked at stationery kit to help them with their classwork. Our main objective is to let them fulfil their potential through sport. We’re also working with a local slum football team as well which will cover the bigger sizes donated so anything really is welcome.”
If people want to make a donation either with money or kit what should they do?
Our website which is www.kit4kenya.com has an option which says ‘support us’, click on that and it comes up with ‘financial donation’ or ‘make a donation of kit’. Please email us and we can either come and collect the kit or arrange for it to be sent to our storage unit. We have a just giving page running for financial donations which we welcome. Donations specifically go to covering the shipping cost of all the goods that we send out.”
Get in touch with Tom here:
If you would like to support Kit4Kenya by giving your old football boots, trainers or sports kit or become a student ambassador, then please email Tom on firstname.lastname@example.org