April 30, 2014 - To many folks, an old pair of jeans is something to wear while doing yardwork or donate to charity.
Proving that it takes a class to help make shoes for a village are students in Christ the King's children's ministry. Pictured hard at work are (from left) Jozsef Geczi, Micah Roper, Tyler Moreland, Caden Bailey and Michael Fosnaugh. Good job, fellas. (click for larger version)
But at Christ the King Church in Oxford Township, an old pair of jeans took on a whole new and much deeper meaning on Sunday.
Piles of old jeans were transformed into shoes, jobs and hope for the impoverished people of Uganda, Africa.
Children and adults participated in a shoe-cutting party where they turned pieces of denim into shoe parts for Sole Hope, a mission that provides closed-toe shoes for African children plagued by jiggers, commonly known as sand fleas.
"We love mission work here," said Kathy Cook, the church member who spearheaded the shoe project.
Sole Hope's website www.solehope.org explains why jiggers are such a serious health threat.
"Female jiggers burrow into humans to lay their eggs creating open sores or wounds, which are prone to parasitic infection," according to the website. "When the female is almost fully developed, an infestation begins to irritate and itch, causing severe inflammation and ulceration. If the female dies in the skin, it causes a secondary infection, which, if ignored, could lead to tetanus, gangrene and even the loss of a toe."
Sole Hope reports that "people who do not wear closed-toe shoes and have poor hygiene are most commonly affected."
"This usually involves children, disabled (individuals) and the elderly," the website states.
To help combat this problem, Christ the King's children's ministry collected denim material, pieces of quilted cotton and medical supplies, such as gauze and ointment, for about four weeks.
"We have a ton of fabric," Cook said. "We still have people that want to give us jeans."
On Sunday, the kids and adults traced the patterns for heels, toes and heel patches, then cut the material into the various shoe components.
Cook said the project was particularly educational for the children because it taught them about another part of the world and showed them there are kids just like them who are so poor, they don't have shoes.
The shoe parts were packaged into approximately 200 kits that will be shipped to Uganda where they will be assembled into footwear by African people employed by Sole Hope.
"I love the fact that when people create missions like this, they actually empower the people in that Third World country," Cook said.
"They make an amazing product," she added. "It's not a flimsy shoe. It's a great shoe . . . They use old tires for the bottom."
Included with the shoe kits will be more than $2,000 in donations from church members.
This money will help cover the shipping costs, purchase the sole supplies, pay the shoemakers and tailors and buy the medical supplies necessary for the jigger removals that happen before the kids receive their new shoes.
According to Sole Hope, it takes $10 per pair to complete the entire process.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.