4-H’ers help comfort the “soles” of African children

by kentucky4h

By Katie Pratt

LEXINGTON, Ky., (June 26, 2014) – For most Americans, a good pair of shoes is a given, but that’s not the case for individuals born into poverty in Africa.

4-H’ers attending Teen Conference on the University of Kentucky campus worked diligently to trace and cut pieces of denim, cotton and plastic to make African children’s feet and lives a little more comfortable.

The young leaders from across Kentucky were taking part in a shoe party organized by Danielle Hutchins, Nelson County 4-H youth development agent with the UK Cooperative Extension Service, for the organization Sole Hope.

“The purpose of the workshop at Teen Conference is to introduce 4-H’ers from all over the state to the Sole Hope project. Hopefully they’ll take it back to their districts and counties to replicate the project,” Hutchins said.

Sole Hope, a North Carolina-based nonprofit, uses the denim and plastic pieces to provide closed-toe shoes to children in Uganda and a living wage to Ugandan shoemakers, who complete the shoes. Closed-toe shoes prevent the children from getting jiggers, a common sand flea that burrows into the skin of mammals to lay their eggs. Once inside, the sand flea causes itching, irritation, inflammation and open sores, which are prone to infection. If left untreated, the infection can lead to tetanus, gangrene and potentially a loss of a toe.

Hutchins learned of the nonprofit through Paul Knuth, a 4-H volunteer at the Kentucky 4-H Volunteer Forum, who had seen the program at the 4-H Volunteer Conference of Southern States.

She secured donated denim from consignment stores, Extension Homemakers and the St. Vincent de Paul Society mission store in Nelson County and ordered a shoe party kit from the Sole Hope website. The kit included patterns to make the shoe body and heel supports to fit toddlers’ shoe size 9.

“What I like about this project as a 4-H agent is it gives me the opportunity to cover many different topics,” she said. “I can use it to teach recycling. With the 4-H sewing clubs, I can talk about patterns and finished and unfinished edges. I can talk about medical intervention, because medical personnel actually remove jiggers from children’s feet before they receive the shoes.”

Hutchins began the project with 20 Nelson County 4-H Teen Council members, many of whom were on hand to assist the Teen Conference participants.

Brandon Darby, a Nelson County 4-H Teen Council member and his mom Andrea Darby, a 4-H volunteer, made sure all the cut denim was uniform and put the shoe packets together to ship.

“This project is different from the other ones I’ve done, because it gives me a chance to make an impact at the global level, whereas my other community service projects have all focused on making a difference locally,” Brandon Darby said.

Around 100 young people participated in the two-day event during the conference. 4-H’ers attending Teen Conference and other events organized by Hutchins completed 120 packets to send to the organization.

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