How Upcycled Materials Are Saving Lives

SoleHope shoes made from upcycled materials

One thing many people in first world countries like the United States take for granted is shoes. We have come to regard them as a 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, we never think of what life would be like without shoes. We never think much about the protection they offer us. We don’t have to.  This is the story of how simple upcycled materials are 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.  That’s why, in third world countries, shoes are a whole different story than they are here in the U.S. If you live in a third world country and have shoes, you know that it’s a huge blessing because you see what happens to those around you that don’t have shoes. People in third world countries cherish how shoes can protect not just their feet — but their lives. Yes, their lives.

The problem with no shoes

SoleHope addresses jigger issue through use of upcycled materials

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

Have you heard of Jiggers (not chiggers)? They’re a sand flea that you find 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. They cause real havoc in the lives of people there.

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. There are already enough barriers to schooling in countries like Uganda, but jiggers are another barrier.

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 first world country with access to all basic necessities. Shoes — closed toe shoes to be exact — will protect children’s feet from jiggers. If every child just had closed toe shoes, then the jigger problem could be solved. 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 decided that protecting children in Uganda was an issue they were called to do something about, and so they formed Sole Hope. 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 U.S. at Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Parties. Post party the finished product is sent to Uganda where the fabric is 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.


Shoes, crafted from upcycled materials, are then given to children in need to protect their precious 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 3 ways.

Donate one time

Currently, Sole Hope is working to add a “Shoemaker Workshop” to its compound in Uganda. This physical space for their 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 also set up a monthly donation. For every $10 you commit each month, a new pair of shoes will be given to a child in need. That means for only $10 a month, you can bless 12 children a year with the gift of shoes. These shoes could mean a world of difference in the children’s lives.

Host a shoe cutting party

Upcycled materials are turned into shoes via SoleHope

Ask each Shoe Cutting Party participant to bring an old pair of jeans with them to be upcycled. Image Credit: SoleHope

Shoe Cutting Parties are the foundation of Sole Hope’s mission. All you have to do is gather your friends or community together for the party. You ask each participant to bring an old pair of jeans with them to be upcycled. If they don’t own a pair they can part with, they can grab one at a thrift store that will work just fine.

Then you’ll get to work cutting patterns for shoes from the jeans at the Shoe Cutting party. Every single piece of upcycled fabric you cut will cover a child’s feet and protect them from jigger infestations. In addition, it will provide jobs for the Ugandans who sew the shoes. It will change their family’s life and give them pride in their skill and workmanship and provide income to care for their family. What a fun and simple way to make a difference for many people!

If you’re interested in hosting a Shoe Cutting Party, you can order packets from Sole Hope to suit the needs of your group. Packets range from 10 people to 100 people. You can even make the Shoe Cutting Party a service project as part of a birthday party, family get together or moms night out.

The packets come with all the basics you’ll need to host your shoe cutting party — basics like an instructional DVD, booklet with pictures, bookmarks, a pattern, a pattern sample and more. NOTE — The packets do NOT include fabric or scissors. That’s why it’s crucial to ask your participants to bring an old pair of jeans to be upcycled and some of the other easy to find items you’ll need for the party.

Sole Hope also recommends that you ask participants to donate $10 to attend. This nominal donation will cover the cost of shipping the shoe components from Sole Hope’s Headquarters in the U.S. to Africa, paying a fair wage to the shoemaker and getting the shoes on the feet of a child in need.

Which way will you get involved with Sole Hope? Will you host a Shoe Cutting Party and turn your old jeans into upcycled shoes?

Feature image credit: SoleHope

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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.