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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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One man who knows the joy of a shoebox

AS a shipment of gift-wrapped shoeboxes filled with sweets and toys leaves Millom School, Malawi-born science teacher Bupe Tyson has spoken of the impact of receiving his own charity gift as a child.

bupe
FIRST-HAND KNOWLEDGE: Science teacher, Bupe Tyson, received a Christmas present in a shoebox from the UK when he was growing up

Mr Tyson, 32, grew up in Malawi before moving to Barrow at the age of 10.

Drawing upon his childhood experience of receiving a charity gift box, Mr Tyson has been educating students on the impact of their donation will have on a poverty-stricken child’s life.

Coordinating Millom School’s Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal this year, Mr Tyson has shared his own story, from the “Oxfam advert” life, as he puts it, to moving to England.

Recalling the day he received a Christmas box filled with goodies, he said: “We were told to go to the university, which was special in itself because it’s where important events happened.

“I went with a lot of my friends and we travelled quite far to get there.

“I can remember there being a lot of noise and a lot of children in the room.

“The minute we realised what we had in our hands, we just grabbed the boxes and ran with them because we were so excited – having something that belonged to us and no one else.

“It was amazing to receive the parcel because, at that age, we had no concept of the outside world.

“When someone tells you you’re receiving a gift and it has travelled 5,000 miles to get here, I cannot describe that feeling of when you open the box.

“The toys we used to play with were cars made out of old bits of wire that we’d push around. And footballs were just melted down carrier bags, shaped into a ball.

“So when you open your parcel and there’s a real toy car inside, the way it’s painted and has moving parts, I cannot express how huge that is.”

Mr Tyson moved to England as a child after his mother met a man from Barrow while working at the university.

After moving to Barrow, Mr Tyson attended St George’s Primary School and Alfred Barrow School, before returning to Malawi to teach for a short while.

He came back to England to attend university, to study chemical engineering, before eventually becoming a teacher.

He says a lot of Malawians value education highly and gifts such as books and stationery should not be taken for granted.

He said: “The sense of gratitude for small, simple things is lost a little bit over here because we have so much.

“To receive a gift, just for the sake of it, makes it much bigger. I cannot stress enough how valued the items are.

“From an early age, you become aware that education is the way out of poverty so exercise books and stationery are treasured by the children.”

Around 60 shoeboxes have been filled by Millom School students, staff and families.

And Mr Tyson said their generosity will go a long way in his native Malawi.

He said: “Although it seems small from our end, we don’t get to see the impact it has over there. All you want to do is remind the children that they are important and that they matter.”

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