Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Simply Shoes

Sole Hope
I don’t even know how to begin this post, other than to say that I stumbled upon the Sole Hope organization via Instagram. I stumble upon a lot of stuff via Instagram, and while I cannot remember how I found this organization, I’m sure the path was convoluted. Ultimately I’m thrilled that I came upon this group, doing such amazing work in such a beautiful and far off (for me at least!) land.

While poking around the Sole Hope website (click here) I was immediately drawn to the simplicity of their Core Purpose: "To effectively put in place preventive methods to combat diseases that enter through the feet and to create a positive physical and spiritual difference in the lives of individuals in impoverished communities". Yet I had no idea what “diseases entering through the feet” implied, what it might look like, or how such diseases could impart such horrifying physical and emotional conditions upon a person, but I had a term…Jiggers.

So in doing a little research on Jiggers (most definitely NOT the same as Chiggers, found here in the US), I leaned on Google (a gamble for sure). And I saw some pretty horrifying and sad and heartbreaking images. I have a pretty strong stomach, and can handle my share of blood, gaping wounds and broken bones (please, just don’t vomit on me or show me your abscessed tooth), but these pictures of children, adults, the elderly infested with Jiggers were more than upsetting.

If you are curious and interested, by all means look. You can either Google “jiggers” or you can visit the Sole Hope website (click here) and follow the “What are Jiggers” link. But you can also take my word for it because Jiggers are no joke. And what they do to a person’s feet (and body) is serious. The images are difficult to look at.

A Jigger (chigoe flea) is a parasitic arthropod; essentially a sand flea, that is native to Central and South America, but has been inadvertently introduced by humans to sub-Saharan Africa. Jiggers are most prominent in the dry season and live in the dust that covers the dirt floors that are found in the homes and schools of families living in places like Uganda (and those with similar climates).*

At best having Jiggers causes severe pain and limits daily activities such as walking, playing, attending school or work. From there, Jiggers can be debilitating, and if left untreated and not removed can leave victims with infection, paralysis and even lead to amputation. Secondary infections like tetanus or gangrene to name a couple can be fatal.*

While Jiggers can be transferred into homes via livestock in rural areas, they exist primarily on the ground, and therefore the natural and most logical way for a Jigger to embed itself in a person is via the feet.

Sole Hope’s Core Values are admirable and focus on: (from the Sole Hope website)

Relief: We believe in addressing the very real and present problems associated with the feet through medical intervention as well as taking preventative physical measures.

Education: We believe that education of the youth and their caretakers is essential for long-term solutions.

Sustainability: We believe in supporting communities and teaching the trade of shoe making. We innovate and demonstrate solutions that combine the best of indigenous and contemporary practice to create sustainable skills and employment.

And their solution to the problem of Jiggers is basic and beautifully simple. And this is where each of us can help. Of course donations are always welcome, but Sole Hope is also amazing in that there is something for every kind of volunteer, and via their website, under the Get Involved tab, you will find ways to truly make a difference.

Some of us may recognize the importance of monetary donations, but Sole Hope offers everything from interning with the organization, to volunteering in Uganda, to using the Sole Hope Guest House for accommodations if you happen to find yourself in Uganda, to inviting speakers to visit your group or organization, to sending them supplies via Amazon to becoming an advocate via social media. Truly, no matter what your preference or ability, there is something for you to do on behalf of Sole Hope.

But one of the coolest and most important (I feel) facets of this non-profit are cutting shoes. One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent Jiggers from burrowing into feet is to simply wear close-toed shoes. Sole Hope works to provide those shoes. Quite simply there is a Shoe Cutting Party kit for purchase ($15.00) and through the kit there are very specific and easy steps to follow.  Invite some friends, watch the DVD, and get cutting. Materials needed are basically old denim clothing, pins, fabric scissors and pinking shears, a black sharpie marker and some plastic milk or soda containers. Party guests are generally asked for a $10 donation (and while not required, the donation helps offset Sole Hope’s cost in shipping the uppers to Uganda, helps provide a fair wage to shoe makers and helps purchase the soles for the shoes etc.). Then there is chatting with friends, tracing, snacking, cutting, wine-drinking, pinning, dessert and quality control, and that’s it (once the party is over, the hostess ships the completed uppers to Sole Hope’s office in North Carolina). Voila, a fun party for an amazing cause.

*From both Wikipedia and Sole Hope.

So again, please visit Sole Hope for a more in-depth look at their beginnings, their work, and the beautiful difference they are making in Jinja, Uganda. You can also find Sole Hope on Instagram @solehope  (Click Here for Sole Hope on Instagram); on Facebook at Sole Hope (Click Here for Sole Hope on Facebook); and on Twitter @SoleHope (Click Here for Sole Hope on Twitter)
(These are my feet. safe from Jiggers)

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