By Mei Au
EASLEY—I stare at the rows of shoes in my closet. In this country, shoes are far more about fashion than function.
In other parts of the world such as Africa, shoes can save lives. In this country, the consequences of not wearing shoes may be dirty feet. In Africa, the consequences may be parasites laying eggs in your flesh.
In the days following the Academy Awards, our worldview is sadly focused on what the latest fashion and shoe trends were walking the red carpet. In Africa, children walk a carpet of dirt laced with parasites looking for unsuspecting hosts. The culprit: jiggers. The result: infection, gangrene, paralysis and, occasionally, amputation and even death.
In the comforts of my home in South Carolina, it is easy to not pay attention to suffering half way around the world. Besides, what can one person possibly do about nations of children with crippling foot infections?
But thankfully, Asher Collie, founder of Sole Hope, thought differently. Her heart was broken for the children of Uganda. Her solution: shoes. In 2010, Asher devised a way to make shoes out of used jeans and recycled tires. Today, across America and around the world, people are hosting shoe-cutting parties in homes, churches, schools and work places to cut “shoe uppers” out of jeans.
The uppers are then shipped to Uganda, where local women are taught the craft of shoemaking and men fabricate the soles out of recycled tires. The men and women are paid a fair wage funded by donations to Sole Hope, supporting the organization’s mission to support sustainability. Children receive free shoes after they have been treated at Sole Hope foot clinics. Their feet are washed, cleaned and bandaged after jiggers are painfully, but safely, removed. It is the ultimate act of servanthood, taught by our Lord Jesus, who left his throne in Heaven and came to earth to wash our feet.
Asher describes her passion as “giving the future to a child of the Creator by loving them through acts of service, giving hope because we have been given hope.”
On Feb. 22, 46 women and young girls gathered in the name of Christ at First United Methodist Church, Easley, to cut shoe uppers for Sole Hope. They traced patterns. They talked. They cut. They ate. And they prayed, praying for the children whose feet will eventually slip into one of the 118 pairs of shoes that were cut.
“I was imagining the little feet of the child whose shoes I was cutting,” said Barbara Meyer. “Then I pictured the biggest smile on his precious little face.”
Sometimes, hope and grace are found in a pair of shoes.
On any given day, my lack of footwear is always a choice—to feel sand between my toes, to sense the tickle of grass blades on my well pedicured feet.
For thousands of children in Africa, going barefoot is not a choice. Yes, one person can make a difference in the lives of thousands of Ugandan children. For information: www.solehope.org.
By Mei Au