Shoes and Suitcases for New Hope

On Thursday afternoon I had the pleasure of joining Mr. Ekanya and one of my former students, Oceing Richard, on a trip to the main market to buy suitcases and shoes for the students and refugees of New Hope school in Pawel, Uganda. Mr. Ekanya and Oceing Richard are both from Pawel and their families were once refugees in the IDP camps during the insurgency of Joseph Kony, so caring for the Sudanese refugee children in Pawel is less of project and more of a calling on their hears that they let us be a part of.

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Mr. Ekanya and Alicia with suitcases for the Sudanese refugee children of New Hope

The original plan was to purchase lockers for the refugee children, but further thought revealed that suitcases for their clothing would be better. They’re softer and made of fabric, instead of hard metal that children can easily be hurt on. They have wheels and can be easily moved when cleaning. The suitcases have programmable locks which will help keep their items safe without the extra task of keeping track of a lock and key.

At the market, the suitcases were easy to find and even easier to purchase. They came in different colors and designs, but were all uniform in size and perfect for stowing under the bunk beds of New Hope.

No more refugee children living out of plastic grocery bags. Now they’d each have a place of their own to store their clothes and the few precious possessions they have.

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A refugee child’s plastic bag of possessions

Shopping for shoes in Uganda is, um, a bit different than shoe shopping in the U.S. Shoes are purchased from big racks or piles from stalls in the main market and second hand shoes are preferred because they’re made from rubber and leather, unlike the newer shoes mostly made of synthetics. Common practice is that second hand shoes are polished with black shoe polish and re-sold.

Oceing Richard had already traced the feet of all of the children and he brought those tracings with him to the market. I remember tracing the ticklish feet of some very excited Ugandan children when I bought shoes for a whole first grade class a few years ago. Tracing the feet of the 61 children of New Hope was no small task!

Mr. Ekanya and Oceing, with the help of three eager shoe saleswomen and one shoe salesman, set about the painstaking business of matching each shoe to each traced foot of each child. It was no easy task and after several hours on Thursday afternoon and several more hours on Friday morning, they found 61 pairs of shoes for 61 pairs of little feet.

For some of the children of New Hope, these shoes will be their first pair of shoes.

New Hope School doubles as a church and on our last Sunday in Uganda Laura and I will attend church at New Hope School in Pawel. I’m eager to see the children in their new shoes and to see their things stored in suitcases in their homes.

Vigilantes, I can’t thank you enough for providing for these children with such generosity and care. You’ve shod the feet of the future of Uganda and I can’t wait to see where these kids go.

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One of the shoes for the children of New Hope in Pawel, Uganda

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