WELCOME PRESENT: Pupils at Saambou Primary with their new shoes. Back, from left, are Sebastian Haricombe, Saambou Primary principal Angelo Valentine and Ralph Haricombe. Picture: Rusana Philander
Cape Town - This year, 360 pupils from disadvantaged communities are set to receive a pair of new school shoes from Project Hope, an outreach initiative started by a former gangster.

Sebastian Haricombe, 28, from Manenberg, once a member of one of Cape Town’s most notorious gangs, gives pupils shoes to encourage them to remain in class and complete their education.

He and his father, Ralph Haricombe, raise funds for the initiative, and since Project Hope began seven years ago they have provided thousands of children with new school shoes. Last year they donated 660 pairs to 11 schools.

Recently they handed over 20 pairs of school shoes to pupils at Saambou Primary school in Manenberg, another step towards reaching their target of donating 340 pairs this year.

The idea to start Project Hope came after Sebastian Haricombe saw that a lot of pupils were wearing shoes that were either too big for them or broken.

Saambou Primary principal Angelo Valentine said some pupils did not have school shoes, and that contributed towards them staying away from class and eventually dropping out of school. “This donation from Sebastian and Ralph will ensure that children come to school. This is an exciting project and gives us hope for our children,” Valentine said.

Sebastian Haricombe said: “It is heartbreaking for me to see that children still go to school with broken shoes and uniforms. We also want to start giving children school uniforms. Many parents struggle with buying school uniforms due to the high unemployment rate in our communities. What will happen to these children if they drop out of school? I think we have a responsibility to do something.”

Cape Argus