When students in Catherine Clarke’s fifth-grade class at Cutchogue East have free time during indoor recess or after completing assignments ahead of schedule, you might find them cutting patterns out of plastic milk jugs and old denim jeans.
The patterns they create are then packaged and sent to Uganda through an organization called Sole Hope to be made into shoes for children plagued with jiggers, which are parasites that come from the water and attach to people’s feet. They burrow in so deeply that it’s extremely difficult and painful to have them removed.
“In Africa, the kids have this problem where they don’t have shoes and, because of it, they get jiggers,” fifth-grader Miranda Howard explained. “Sole Hope is, basically, people around the world make cutouts for the shoes and [we] send the cutouts to Africa, where they make shoes for all the kids who don’t have any.”
Sole Hope was founded a few years ago by Drü and Asher Collie, a North Carolina couple who were interested in adopting a child from Africa. They came across a video of children plagued with jiggers and, after visiting Uganda and seeing firsthand the pain they endured, they started Sole Hope with the goal of preventing others from being afflicted by these parasites.
Ms. Clarke found the organization while browsing online one day searching for a school project and felt it would be a good global citizenship project for her students.
“That’s really the message — that we’re all in this together,” she said. “If we can help, we should help.”
Receiving positive feedback since the class project began last month, her students are beginning to teach other fifth-graders about Sole Hope.
This includes instructing them on how to cut out the patterns and explain how each piece is used. Each shoe consists of toe, side and heel pieces made of denim and plastic cutouts that function as heel support, student Reilleigh Ligouri explained.
Another benefit of the project is that while protecting people from jiggers, it simultaneously creates jobs for the Ugandan people who receive the patterns and sew them together to create the shoes.
“It kills two birds with one stone,” student Bryce Walling said. “It gives locals a job and helps kids and adults in Africa avoid parasites.”
Classmate Sofia Knudsen agreed. “It helps kids that need shoes more than you do,” she said. “And you get to recycle things you usually throw away.”