At the start of the day, we had a lot of shoes. Think high-tops, tiny Ninja Turtle themed shoes, pink canvas shoes with glitter, basic white runners—more than 500 pairs of them. They all came from generous donors who want kids in Cozumel to be able to go to school.
By the end of the first day of distribution, the stockpile was greatly diminished. Nearly a third of the 495 registered students had been fit with new shoes for school. Volunteer shoe-fitters took a breath then began to reorganize supplies for the next group of students hoping to find the athletic shoes required for them to attend school.
“It’s so nice to be able to do this,” said Whitney, a first-time FOC volunteer from Georgia. “I take so many things for granted and it’s nice give back once in a while.”
Students receiving shoes included those from kindergarten age to university level. Even their youngest, barefoot siblings were fit with tiny toddler shoes or sandals.
But how can a simple pair of shoes help students go to school? The fact is that each student must have a pair of black shoes for their uniforms as well as a pair of athletic shoes to go to school. On an island where rubber flip-flops are the typical footwear for many people, acquiring two pairs of shoes can be daunting. Friends of Cozumel focuses on supplying athletic shoes and accepts donations of new pairs in all sizes.
The effort to get children into schools appears to be working. Many of the older students who have relied on Friends of Cozumel’s support for years have stayed in school. Now they’re paying it forward by as young community leaders at FOC activities.
“The majority of students at our distributions used to be primary students,” said Larry, one of FOC’s coordinators. “Now it’s skewing toward the higher grades. We have 28 university students now and several of the older students are regular volunteers with us.”
Today the volunteers worked to fit a group of special needs children with shoes. One giggling young boy couldn’t have been happier with his shoes. Lights in the soles blinked each time he took a step. His smile was just as bright as his shoes.
Kudos to all our 2017 shoe donors, including the CREW team that donated and delivered more than 300 pairs of new shoes. Regardless of the shoe style, all of our donors have brought soles that light up the faces of children in need.
~Phyllis from Nebraska