The group is making parts for shoes that will be sent to Uganda, assembled by Ugandan women, and distributed free to Ugandan children. The work is coordinated through Sole Hope, a Christian organization created by a South Carolina couple who are now living in Uganda. The organization’s mission is to help eliminate foot problems and infections caused by a parasite that affect many rural Ugandan children. According to the organization’s brochure, the parasite is a type of sand flea, or jigger, that burrows into the skin of barefoot children, causing infections that can lead to paralysis, amputation, and even death.
LKG member Jill Gentilin says she learned about the organization and the need it addresses from a niece who volunteered along with others in her graduating class. “She went to Uganda and was helping by washing feet and removing the parasites,” Gentilin says. “I wanted to support her, and I thought our church could assist by making these shoes. It’s helpful for the church to look outside of ourselves and our community and do something in the world.”
Volunteers and organizations like the LKG cut denim, quilter’s cotton, and plastic heel supports to create the uppers for each pair of shoes according to a pattern. When complete, the materials are packaged and sent to Sole Hope’s North Carolina headquarters and shipped to Uganda.
In Uganda, the uppers are assembled and mated with the soles by local women who, according to Sole Hope, are primarily widows and former sex workers. The soles, Gentilin notes, are sourced in Uganda and made from recycled tires. “They (Sole Hope) pay women a fair wage, so they make some money, and the kids get the shoes.”
The LKG had set a goal of making 100 pairs. They exceeded that number, cutting materials for up to 115 pairs. Gentilin says all of the materials except the denim have been donated, but they’ve also received cash donations to help with the cost. Whatever is left over from the donations will be sent to Sole Hope to help with its mission.
Sole Hope suggests donating $10 for every pair of shoes to help with the cost of assembly in Uganda and clinics to remove the jiggers from children’s feet. Anyone who would like to help by making a donation to the LKG can call Gentilin at (802) 348-7752. For more information about Sole Hope visit www.solehope.com.