A DEPRIVED African community where families live in overcrowded shacks and half the people are HIV positive is being given hope for a brighter future thanks to a South Lakes charity.

The Thandi Friends Project was founded by Alan and Chris Clowes and a group of friends to help disadvantaged people in the Grabouw area of the Western Cape.

The aim was to create sustainable opportunties to alleviate poverty and empower the community through education, developing skills, food aid and medical resources.

Now almost a decade later, the project is reporting significant successes, including the founding of a creche and a Farm School and the provision of healthcare and teacher training.

“The communities live in small overcrowded shacks,” said Alan. “There is widespread ill health, infant mortality and up to 50 per cent of the population are HIV positive.

“The Thandi Friends Project strives to empower the community through education, skills development, food aid and medical resources. In a truly nurturing sense, the objective is to enable the community to help itself.”

The recreational needs of the Grabouw communities are also being addressed. During their latest trip to the Africa, Alan and Chris delivered a supply of sports gear - with the help of sponsorship from Kendal’s K Shoes - to a small village school in the Caprivi area of Namibia.

Alan, who with Chris runs the Cross Keys at Cautley near Sedbergh, said: “Over the last three years the project has accumulated rugby shirts, shorts, boots and socks and rugby balls all ex-Sedbergh School gear, plus football shirts, shorts and footballs all ex-Sedbergh Wanderers gear.

“Also from Sedbergh School we were given cricket and netball gear and then lots of new sweat shirts, cricket bats and balls from Emmanuel College in Gateshead.”

To deliver the items, Alan and Chris hired a Land Rover in Cape Town and drove hundreds of miles through the Namib desert to reach their destination.

Alan said: “It is difficult to express our feelings during the following couple of hours as we unloaded the Land Rover and kids tried on football and rugby shirts netball skirts and tops and sweat shirts or kicked around a football or chased around with a rugby ball – all in the blazing sun.”

To find out how to donate to the Thandi Friends Project, contact the treasurer Keith Wilberforce on 01539-621562.