One of the first sponsored ‘teddy bear parachute jumps’ in Scotland is set to be held in Dundee to raise money for impoverished Zimbabwean youngsters.
Organised by local businessman Alan Calder-Mcnicoll, 69, the event will see dozens of teddies ‘jump’ from a window around 30 feet high at Mains Castle on Saturday September 8.
Cash raised will go to a soon-to-be-launched apprenticeship scheme designed to tackle shocking levels of unemployment in Gweru, Zimbabwe, said to be among the highest in the world.
Mr Mcnicoll said: “The teddies are symbolic of the children in Gweru — thrown out and unloved.”
Teddy bear parachuting, part of the growing craze of parafauna, is becoming increasingly popular as a hobby and charity fundraiser.
Those keen to get involved can sponsor a teddy or bring their own, with the money going towards funding the Champions Skills Apprenticeship Programme.
It will be set-up in the city of Gweru and involve Zimbabwe’s largest university, Midland State, and the Rotary Clubs of Dundee and Gweru.
Mr Mcnicoll regularly raises money for initiatives in Gweru, having founded a network of fundraisers in 2014 called Champions for Children.
The organisation, which he started with two Swedish friends, has raised more than US$72,000 to-date.
US$18,000 of this has been raised through the organisation’s Maywave Campaign, which is building orphanages in the city.
The second hand soft toys to be used in the “sky dive” were all bought from charity store Barnardo’s, which Mr Mcnicoll describes as “symbolic”.
Mr Mcnicoll said: “The poverty out there is just terrible.
“The children there can’t even afford to have teddy bears so we’ve sent over many for them.
“The parachute jump is just something a bit different.
“The teddies will be lead by my mascot Liam the Leopard, who I always bring with me when I visit Zimbabwe — he helps to break down barriers.
“The aim of the apprenticeship scheme is to equip young people with skills to work for themselves.
“It will give them a better start in life.”
Mr Mcnicoll founded a business several years ago selling silk sleeping bag liners through Amazon which he says now leaves him with a lot of time to dedicate to charitable causes.
He regularly visits the Midlands Children Hope Centre in Gweru to see progress of the work there with his most recent visit being from March to May this year.
He said the level of deprivation in the country shocked him when he first visited.
He said: “We started the organisation because we have big hearts.
“You cannot go out there and just do nothing after seeing it all. Zimbabwe is in the top five poorest countries in the world and we just want to help change things.”
The event, which will also feature a bouncy castle, small fair rides, face painting and craft stalls, will take place at noon on Saturday September 8.
Children will be able to create their own parachute at the event or can bring their own.
To find out more, and to sponsor a teddy, visit the event’s Facebook page here or email firstname.lastname@example.org