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Shoe collection helps bring water to village

Shoe collection helps bring water to village

July 3rd, 2013 in News

A new well is shown installed in a Haitian village thanks to Hope for Caribbean Kids and the Shoeman Water Project.

Fresh water will be at the fingertips of those who call the remote Haitian village of Mare Blanche home.

And it's all thanks to bunches of shoes.

Two 500-gallon water tanks with a purification system were installed this week for the 600-member church and 300-student make-shift school.

"The water purification system is an important step toward helping the people of Mare Blanche meet requirements to qualify for school (benefits) from Mission of Hope and other food sources in Haiti," said Iva Presberry, co-founder of Hope for Caribbean Kids Inc.

The local, not-for-profit organization benefited from the Missouri-based Shoeman Water Projects to augment fundraising for this rural community atop the southern mountains.

The spring Shoes to Benefit Kids in Haiti collection, in partnership with StorageMart, received nearly 4,200 pounds of shoes from schools, churches, groups and individuals in Mid-Missouri.

The public is invited to continue donating shoes through this partnership to benefit Haiti.

A storage unit has been donated in Jefferson City by StorageMart at 2420 St. Mary's Blvd. for an ongoing collection.

Shoes may be any size and style, but must have no holes and be paired together.

Storage Mart had worked with Shoeman Water Projects in the past, but their local representative had moved away, said Sarah Little, interactive marketing director. So, they were pleased to partner with Hope for Caribbean Kids this spring and to resume the partnership with Shoeman.

"We like to support kids," Little said. "This is a unique way to work with a local charitable organization working with kids overseas."

Several businesses and churches in Jefferson City recently have held shoe collections for the Shoeman Water Projects' general program, which raises money to drill wells and install water purification systems for needy villages, mostly in Africa.

The Fenton-based organization started in 2008 and now receives donations of shoes from as far away as New York and Oregon. For any given week, as many as 100 shoe drives could be ongoing.

Founder George Hutchings said his organization will send volunteers to pick up the donated shoes. But many organizations, especially youth groups, prefer to bring their truckloads to Fenton to see their warehouses, he said.

Schools and churches often invite Hutchings or another Shoeman volunteer to deliver a presentation on the organization's work, with an emphasis on character-building and community service, he said.

In 2012, Shoeman Water Project raised enough funds to drill three wells at a cost of $45,000 each.

The shoe connection's donated shoes are sold to vendors who then sell or barter them in impoverished nations to people who could not afford new shoes.

The Shoeman Water Project has four "lightweight" rigs in Kenya. However, they now need bigger rigs that can manage through 600 feet of granite, Hutchings said.

Due to deforestation, most of the 23 rivers in Kenya have gone underground, he explained.

The Haitian village is different. Instead, they have no well or river and must depend solely on rain water.

The purification system Shoeman and Hope for Caribbean Kids have had installed uses solar panels to operate the pump.

In Mare Blanche, Haiti, their isolated location is an additional threat to lack of water and food.

Last fall, Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy damaged their school, church, crops, homes and livestock.

Then, they went through a severe drought that lasted until late March of this year.

"They were destitute and struggling to return to their meager existence," Presberry said. "A water well greatly improves their lives."

The next step for the village church and school to qualify for national help is a kitchen with a storage room.

"It sounded like a simple task," Presberry said. "However, their location is an unbelievable barrier to their receiving help."

Hope for Caribbean Kids is praying for construction companies or someone to repair the road, so the people can receive the help they need, she said.

"The roads in these southern mountains have never been good, but the hurricanes left them dangerously damaged," Presberry said.

The recent transport of the well supplies damaged vehicles and injured drivers and installers, whose four-wheel drive could not tackle the roads and they had to carry the supplies on foot to complete the installation, she said.

The Presberrys will travel to Haiti at the end of the month to bring teachers to the village for planning and training. The local missionaries, who will be accompanied by Amy and Madison Spencer, also will bring food and other supplies.

In addition to the shoe collection campaign, Hope for Caribbean Kids projects are supported by multiple fundraisers, like the Bowling for Haiti Sept. 28 at Westgate Lanes, and the State Charitable Contributions Campaign.

Hutchings said statistics suggest a human dies every 20 seconds from lack of clean drinking water.

Women in Kenya spend their entire day fetching water by foot from several miles away.

And little girls in Haiti might walk back and forth up to a river up to 10 times a day for their families.

"(Fresh water) eliminates a day of terror and toil," Hutchings said. "It allows women to stay home, and it improves their drinking water, hygiene and they can plant gardens.

"It changes the entire economic structure of a village every time we drill a well."