TRIBUTES have been paid to a Hampshire charity boss who helped hundreds of Africa’s poorest residents.

Glyn Roberts, who has died aged 77, founded Tools for Self-Reliance (TFSR) after visiting the continent and seeing traders struggling to earn a living with worn-out equipment.

Mr Roberts came up with the idea of collecting and refurbishing tools in the UK and sending them to poverty-stricken communities.

It led to the creation of TFSR, which began in Portsmouth but now has workshops and a warehouse in Ringwood Road, Netley Marsh.

Writing about the charity several years after its creation Mr Roberts said: “In Ethiopia I’d observed costly Caterpillar diggers brought in by aid agencies rusting away because it was impossible to find diesel or spare parts.

“Meanwhile, thousands of Ethiopians went unemployed and hungry.

“After hearing an aid worker complain that young people were stealing the tools from his visual aid display it struck me that tools could empower poor people and give them a livelihood.

“Their equipment was almost worn out – chisels sharpened to the last centimetre, hammers mere stumps of iron.

“We got to work with a bunch of dedicated student volunteers in 1979, using an abandoned church hall in Portsmouth as our first tool shed.

“There was no heating, gas or water but we were jubilant. We had found somewhere to clean the first batch of 240 tools.”

TFSR chief executive Sarah Ingleby said Mr Roberts had spent a lifetime helping others.

She added: “We are hugely saddened by the news of Glyn’s death. He was a dedicated and passionate individual whose legacy is the thousands of people whose lives have been changed through his vision of empowerment and practical support.”

“It is anticipated that a celebration event to commemorate Glyn’s life will be held at the Tools for Self-Reliance headquarters later in the year.”

TFSR’s mission is to combat poverty by providing people with the tools and training they need to earn a living.

Over the decades the charity has been helped by students from across Europe, plus retired craftsmen with years of skill and experience to pass on.

After initially collecting tools such as saws, drills and hammers TFSR started accepting sewing machines.

By 2010 more than 800 were being sent aboard each year. Many were antique family heirlooms but were still in good working order.