Shoe-give-a-thon to help Kenyan Orphans

Courtesy photo

Jennifer Muslck Wright founded the HEAL organization to  help Kenyan orphans.

Brush the dust off those shoes you never wear and kiss them goodbye for a great cause.  Castleton student Tegan Waite has teamed up with HEAL (Health, Education, Ample Nutrition and Love) to create a shoe-give-a-thon to benefit an orphanage in Kenya.   

“For an advocacy project for Katy Culpo’s Health Issues class, I am bringing awareness about orphans and how college students miles and miles away can play their part and help these children overseas,” Waite said.  “We’re having a shoe-give-a-thon, asking people to donate their new or gently used shoes they are willing to part with.”

Waite partnered up with friend and Mill River graduate, Jennifer Musick Wright to make the event happen.  Musick Wright founded HEAL as a college student in 2007 and currently has about 80 kids ranging in age from four to 18 attending school in their first orphanage in Kenya.

“We do not have clean water right now so we are setting up shoe drives around the country to raise the rest of the money we need to dig a well,” Musick Wright said.  “We have about $10,000 more to go and we’re hoping the shoe drives will help with that.”

For every 2,500 pairs of shoes collected, $1,000 is donated to the orphanage according to Waite.  Donation boxes can be found in residence halls as well as Glenbrook and the SGA Office.

 “We’re having an event April 13 from 5:30-7:30 in the 1787 Room.  It’s going to be a packing party so we’re all going to be rubber banding shoes and counting them and packing them to send them away,” Waite said.

While water is a primary issue for this community, there are many other dangers that these young children face.  Musick Wright shared a story about a young girl named Beatrice who is currently a senior in high school.

“When she was nine years old she was actually raped by her uncle.  Her mother passed away so she went to live with her grandmother and one day when she was there alone her uncle came in and raped her,” Musick Wright said.

“Sometime after that, she ended up getting sick and her grandmother took her to the doctor and they found out that she had HIV,” Musick Wright said with sadness in her voice. “She’s now 19, so this was before people had an understanding about what HIV is so she was basically shunned and her family kicked her out.”

Beatrice was then rescued by a group and soon after was diagnosed with chicken pox.

“They didn’t want to catch HIV I guess you could say, so they left her in a room by herself until her chicken pox were gone so now she has scarring all over her body from the chicken pox,” Musick Wright said.

While Beatrice has certainly lived a tough life, she is unfortunately not alone.  HIV and other diseases have taken many parents’ lives, forcing children to drop out of school to care for younger siblings or simply because they can’t afford it.

“Many kids end up on the street.  There is a big issue with street boys in Kenya and many of the girls end up being prostituted,” Musick Wright said.

Kenya may be over 7,000 miles from Vermont, but a simple shoe donation can make a difference in the lives of young boys and girls in desperate need of help.


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