Families in America celebrate Thanksgiving Day with food, family, and football. Adding to the mix is travel, exhausted adults, good cheer, and piles of dishes. It’s a fun-filled day ripe with annual rituals and the autumnal kickoff to the holiday season.
Our extended family lives far away so our family tradition includes running in a local race to burn off expected calories, Dad cooking up a hearty meal of an extra-large turkey with standard trimmings, and a weekend filled with creative turkey leftovers. My personal favorite is turkey slices on Texas Toast with Brie cheese, topped with a hot salsa/orange marmalade jelly all toasted and bubbly!
All year long we participate in various community and school fundraisers, as well as holiday gift giving to the needy.
But this year, we added a new tradition -- an actual act of service, albeit in the comfort of our home.
My friend Kimberly Amici (Co-Founder of Circles of Faith) had recently returned from the Allume conference and let me peruse her pile of SWAG. She showed me a kit from Sole Hope and a magazine article with details about the ministry. I’m always on the lookout for community service projects for my kids, girl scouts, schools, community, etc. So I was hooked.
Asher Collie started this organization after she saw a YouTube video* about jiggers in Africa.
Jiggers are small sand fleas that enter bare feet and burrow into the skin creating problems that eventually lead to infection, paralysis, and even amputation. Asher quickly made a choice to help these children. You can read all about her journey at www.solehope.org.
Sole Hope not only provides shoes for children, but jobs for woman in Uganda.
What I loved about this organization is that I could be a part of what they are doing right here at home. My part is relatively easy and yet has a big impact.
A basic kit includes all you need to have a “shoe cutting party.”
There is an instructional DVD, booklet with pictures, a pattern, pattern sample, and instructions. Essentially, you provide the raw materials by using old jeans to make cutouts in the shape of shoe templates provided. Then, you bag up all your samples and mail them to Sole Hope with a small donation to cover shipping to Africa. Once the cut goods are received, the Sole Hope team in Africa, made up of community members in Uganda towns, sew these shoes for their own residents. The “shoemakers” work hard and are able to support their families.
I wanted to test this concept before considering a larger shoe-cutting group, hence the family activity. I collected jeans from local friends that didn’t fit, were worn-out, or weren’t designated for siblings or cousins. I explained the project to my family of four and away we traced, cut, gathered, and clipped. We named the sample cutout templates: pacman, mushroom, and trapezoid – this made it easier for the kids when counting and gathering together the shapes.
For an hour (and my extra half hour spent on quality control), we made the templates for five pairs of shoes. I appreciated the project because it was tactical and provided a step in the right direction toward solving a health issue that will provide residents of Africa with a better quality of life. It was also an opportunity to speak with our 12 and 9 year olds about how blessed they are to have many pairs of shoes, and easy access to healthcare. It was a wonderful way to give of our time.
This may be a new tradition for our family.
I believe a heart of service can be taught or modeled if it’s not innate. I hope when my children leave home, they will not only feel blessed with abundance, but also have the grace and desire to share what they have with those less fortunate in any way they can. Doing activities like these are a big part of cultivating that.
I will be on the lookout all year for our next “Thanks Sharing” project and I encourage you to find an annual service project (any time of the year) with your family.
Happy Holidays to You All!
Personal Post Script: I concur with the Sole Hope team that this is not a project for younger children. I chose not to share the video with my kids but simply provided my own verbal version. All children are different but I thought mine would have been disturbed by the actual footage even though filmed very tastefully. Secondly, the tracing and cutting need to be done by a more skilled and experienced set of hands for accuracy – I’m guessing 16 and up. That being said, younger children can still help gather supplies, clip samples, and be in the mix for the conversations. Check out the coloring pages Sole Hope provides for little ones on their website.
* Here is the Sole Hope YouTube Video Warning: This YouTube is graphic and could be disturbing.
Jennifer Pine lives in New Jersey and is a "household manager to her husband of 15 years and two kids" – i.e., stay-at-home mom. She is passionate about teaching kids of any age to do good for others and uses the Community Service Committee at the schools as a primary forum. Jennifer tries more to be her children’s parent than their BFF, enabling them to become independent so they will be successful adults.