Farmer’s tool recycling project helping thousands

A RETIRED farmer has tranformed lives by sending 13,000 essential tools to developing countries, thanks to the generosity of Ripon families.

Ripon man Mark Henshaw, 74, helps practical charity Tools for Self Reliance by collecting unwanted tools from Dallamires Lane recycling centre and painstakingly cleaning and restoring them.

After a lifetime of working with tools Mark began volunteering for the charity six years ago, and has kept a record of each of the 13,000 tools he has collected since.

“I have always been involved with tools – I farmed for 20 years at Winksley, and before that I had a business doing precision woodwork.

“I started this because I enjoy working with tools and now I always enjoy collecting what has been left at Dallamires Lane.”

Once Mark has cleaned and refurbished the donated tools they are sent to the charity’s headquarters in Southampton and sorted into kits, before being shipped to various countries in Africa.

The charity’s local partners train people in trades including carpentry and blacksmithing, and distribute the tool kits, helping the trainees to earn a living and support their families with their new skills.

Mark spends around 20 hours a week working on the tools, he said, because it is vital they are in good condition.

“We send the best tools we can because they have to last. There’s no B&Q around the corner, so it’s no good sending something that will break,” he said.

But he makes use of any donations by refurbishing unsuitable tools and selling them at local auction houses to help cover the charity’s shipping costs. He has raised more than £9,000 in the past six years.

Despite his years of experience, he still finds some surprises among the donations.

“Sometimes I find very specialist tools that I don’t know, and I am learning new skills because I work with tools I have never used before.”

Mark said he is grateful for the generosity of Ripon people who donate tools, staff at Dallamires Lane recycling centre who help him collect tools, and the neighbours who lend their garages as extra storage for the stock of tools.

He wants to encourage people to bring unwanted tools to his collecting box, with bigger items like anvils and modern welding equipment especially useful, and would welcome help from anyone who can store tools or get clean and restore some tools in their own workshop.

l For more information go to the Tools for Self Reliance website at www.tfsr.org or contact Mark on 01765 690163 or email markripon@yahoo.co.uk.