Some wooden toys will not put an end to Africa’s troubles, but what really matters to Dave Smith is that they are able, at least, to create a smile. And not only with children.
An ordinary man and extraordinary craftsman, Dave’s story is one of passion, devotion and generosity. His workshop has been, for the past two years, taken over by handmade wooden helicopters and cars – but also giraffes and ducks on wheels, which he builds and periodically sends to Angola hoping they will amuse local children.
The activity has turned from mere passion into a proper full-time job and mission with the precious help of very special co-workers: several Alzheimer patients of the Kempsey Men’s Shed non-profit organisation, Australia.
The exceptionality of Dave’s idea lies in the efficient combination of two acts of philanthropy: on one hand, he tries to make Angolan kids’ childhood a little brighter with his toys donations, which are distributed by the Uniting Church together with hampers including sheets, towels and underclothes for their families; on the other, he strongly wanted the Kempsey elderly community to get involved in his project, highlighting the social importance of cooperation.. People with late stages of Alzheimer are usually left out of social circles. With this practical activity, instead, Dave gives them a new little social role. “I have become very close with these people, and it’s wonderful to see them enjoying contributing to something they believe is very important”, he says.
Once he has carved and shaped the wood, Dave passes the baton to his “assistants”, who help him paint the toys. Their collaboration has been made possible by fortnightly painting classes Dave has held in local nursing homes hosting residents with Alzheimer’s disease. The result has been quite impressive: the final products are colourful, beautifully designed and, what is more, made with unbelievable speed. According to Dave’s reports, he has to “take along 50 helicopters every time because they paint them so quickly”. This year alone, the toys they have been made amount to more than five hundred.
An activity meant to produce fun for children thousands of miles away has turned into something in which smiles can be seen locally too. What could be more pleasing for Dave than seeing three old ladies competing at work and asking each other: “how many have you done?”