Students step up shoe donation project

LEGWORK::The project collecting shoes for Africans has already had a huge response, although organizers said that a high number of unsuitable shoes is being donated

By Chiu Chih-jou and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, Apr 18, 2015 - Page 5

The Jin Hsin Industrial and Commercial Vocational High School in Pingtung County’s Chaojhou Township (潮州) has called for donations of shoes in usable condition and appropriate for African terrain.

The Step30 project seeks secondhand shoes to help people in the rural areas of Kenya and Uganda, who, due to lack of resources and poor sanitary conditions, are subject to sand flea bites from walking barefoot.

The vocational high school, in response to the project, had called for residents to deposit shoes at the school next week.

Despite the event having not yet officially started, residents began donating shoes to the school as early as last month.

According to the school, it has received more than 7,000 pairs of shoes since then.

However, the school said that nearly 1,000 of the pairs that have been received are no good.

Student Chen Chi-hui (陳佳慧) said that the school’s students helped organize the donated goods between classes.

Many of the shoes were smelly and dirty, while some had gaping holes, Chen said, adding that others, such as high heels, boots or sandals were not suitable to be sent to Africa.

Sifting out the large number of unsuitable shoes is adding to the volunteers’ workload, Chen said.

School official Shih Kuan-wei (施冠瑋) said that the school had begun verbally promoting the event last month, adding that while many of the donors had their heart in the right place, some of their donations had lacked some thought.

Shih said that the school is looking for more shoes for children aged two and three, adding that the school was also short on bags in which to put the shoes.

The school would welcome any donation of still-serviceable shoes and bags to put them in, Shih said.

One of Step30’s founders, Yang Yuan-ching (楊宛靜), traveled to Chaojhou to encourage the students involved in the project.

Seeing the amount of care and concern generated by the project, as well as seeing the students pulled away from their phones and games to become involved in helping others is a primary motivation for the organization, Yang said.

Yang also said that the organization faces challenges posed by the large number of volunteers needed to take in and sort donated shoes, the NT$600,000 fee per shipping crate, as well as difficulties establishing a channel of distribution once the donated items reach Kenya and Uganda.