How Upcycled Materials Are Saving Lives

SoleHope shoes made from upcycled materials
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Most people in the United States take shoes for granted — just another necessity of life. Of course, we think of how they match our outfit, whether they’re the right style for the occasion, and if they’re still in fashion this season. But, how many of us think about what life would be like without shoes? We rarely think much about the protection they offer us — we don’t have to. But for many people, shoes are hard to come by. In this post, we look at how simple upcycled materials can be transformed into shoes that literally protect and save lives.

An Upcycled Awakening, with Hope

Did you know that 1.5 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day? If you lived on that tiny budget, could you afford shoes? Probably not. Many people who live in economically challenged communities value the importance of shoes because they see what can happen to people who don’t have shoes. They cherish how shoes can protect not just their feet — but their lives. Yes, their lives.

The Problem with No Shoes

Have you heard of jiggers (not chiggers)? They’re a sand flea that lives in sub-Saharan climates, and they’re most prominent in the dry season. You’ll often find them on dirt floors in homes and schools in places like Uganda, inflicting suffering and hardship on the people they come into contact with.

Jiggers are parasitic insects, so they burrow themselves into exposed skin. Then the females start to lay eggs. They continue to lay eggs for as long as they can inside of the person’s skin. This process leads to painful wounds that interfere with daily life. People suffering from jiggers find it painful to walk and perform daily activities — in addition, people with jiggers often are socially shunned.

gloved hands treating bare feet

Closed-toe shoes, which can be easily crafted from upcycled materials, will protect children’s feet from jiggers. Image credit: SoleHope

There are already enough barriers to schooling in countries like Uganda, but jiggers create another barrier. The pain, itching, and infection caused by the parasites prevent the children from walking to school. 

While small numbers of jiggers aren’t deadly, the secondary infections that come from these wounds can be. Infections caused by jiggers can lead to severe inflammation, ulceration, and fibrosis. They can also cause lymphangitis, gangrene, sepsis, and the loss of toenails, amputation of the digits, and even death. It’s serious business.

The Solution Is Simple

Well, the solution is simple to someone living in a wealthy country with access to all basic necessities. Shoes — closed-toe shoes specifically — will protect the wearer’s feet from jiggers. If every child wore closed-toe shoes, they would be protected from these parasites. But how do you get closed-toe shoes to every child in areas where jiggers are an issue? Enter Sole Hope.

Sole Hope

Drü and Asher Collie formed Sole Hope to help Ugandan children become jigger free by providing education, medical care, and shoes. Through this incredibly heartening endeavor, Sole Hope is putting new shoes on children in Uganda every day.

The fabric (typically upcycled denim) for the shoes is cut here in the United States at Sole Hope Shoe Parties. The fabric is then sent to Uganda where it’s sewn by tailors, then made into shoes by shoemakers, using old tires for the soles. Those shoes are then given to children in need to protect their precious feet from jiggers.

solehope-upcycled-shoes

Children in need receive shoes crafted from upcycled materials to protect their feet from jiggers. Image credit: SoleHope

Get Involved

At this point in the conversation about Sole Hope, you might be wondering how you can get involved. It definitely popped into my head as I was reading about their mission and their successes. Sole Hope is asking for your support in multiple ways; here are three of them.

Donate One Time

Currently, Sole Hope is working to add a shoe making workshop to its compound in Uganda. When completed, this physical space for shoemakers and tailors to work will allow Sole Hope to create more sustainable jobs, make more shoes to protect people from jiggers, and train apprentices for future growth and development.

Donate Each Month

If you’re looking for something you can do every month for Sole Hope, you can set up a monthly “10 for 10” donation. For every $10 you donate each month, a new pair of shoes will be given to a child in need. That means for only $10 a month, you can provide 12 children a year with the gift of shoes. These shoes could mean a world of difference in the children’s lives.

circle of bare feet with $10 in center

A donation of $10 provides a child in Uganda with a pair of shoes. Photo: Sole Hope

Host a Sole Hope Party

Get involved by hosting a Sole Hope Party. Sole Hope provides the party kits and guidance; you supply the people.

    • Sole Hope Shoe Parties give you a chance to participate in the shoe-making process, preparing the fabric that will be finished into shoes in Uganda. Before you plan your party, you need to order the Shoe Party Kit, which contains a guide to ensure you have a successful and fun party. There’s even an instructional video to guide you through preparing the fabric pieces for the shoes.

  • Care Kit Party participants pack kits that help with home care and prevention of jiggers. Before the party, groups host collection drives for supplies (things like band-aids, cotton balls, and antibiotic ointment), and then at the party, you create the individual kits. You can even write a personalized note to the recipient to include in your kit.
young girl holding a tub filled with basic medical supplies

Care Kit Party participants collect basic medical supplies and sort these into individual kits that will be given to children in Uganda. Image: Sole Hope

  • Parties with a Purpose help raise funds for Sole Hope. For example, for a birthday party, guests would bring a donation for Sole Hope instead of a gift. Sole Hope provides ideas for your party and can help you plan your event. 

How will you get involved with Sole Hope?

Feature image credit: Sole Hope

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on May 23, 2016.

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Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal Johnson, publisher of Happy Mothering, founder of Green Moms Media and essential oil fanatic, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former corporate marketing communication manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life.