(Be sure to read the prequel, Origins Stories: Guatemala Outreach!, which gives a deeper history of the origins of Shoes & Hope).
As Guatemala Outreach! continued to take teams to Quebrada de Agua, Guatemala each year, we would meet with the COCODE (Village Leaders) to discuss the state of affairs in the community. Using an Asset-Based Community Development approach, we would ask them what was good in the community and what was needed in the community?
In 2014, their list identified one need above all others: Clean Water.
At this point I realized that this need was going to be hard to address during a single mission trip. I also realized that it would take years to raise the $16,404 needed for this project. I knew I needed to find another way to help the community meet this need.
More importantly, I knew that the people of Quebrada de Agua did not need Americans to come “help” them “fix” what we thought was broken. Instead, they needed partners…. Partners that talked with them and heard their ideas; Partners that helped them identify their assets; and Partners that were willing to work with them to find ways to combine their assets and our resources to achieve their goal of bettering their lives and their community!
After exploring a myriad of different ways of making this happen, I again found myself at Starbucks meeting with Donn Herring and AIM and figuring it out. That’s when Shoes & Hope was born…Passion, Purpose and Partnership.
Shoes & Hope's first project was Clean Water in Quebrada de Agua. In the summer of 2015, a new water system was installed in the village of Quebrada de Agua. Shoes & Hope provided the materials but the 110 men of the village dug over 3.2 miles of trenches through the mountains to lay the pipe. We also provided materials for the villagers to build one of the first latrines in the village. This was not a giveaway program, it was a true Partnership!
But before I go too far in discussing the work, let me take a minute to answer some fundamental questions about Shoes & Hope:
What do shoes have to do with water and toilets?
Shoes & Hope collects new and gently used shoes. Although shoes are the engine for our ministry, our ministry is really not about shoes. The shoes are really a tool for us to tell others about our mission. Our mission starts with Clean Water and Sanitation & Hygiene for those that live without, primarily in Central America.
Want can you do in addition to donating your own shoes?
Why not help us collect more shoes? You can organize shoe drives at your church, school, place of business, Scout troop, sports team, etc. You can also be a part of Shoes Plus, Double Your Impact. This is where you can donate $1 for each pair of shoes that you donate to literally help us double the impact!
What do we do with the shoes?
When we pick up the shoes, the shoes are taken to a local organization, Community Living. Community Living works to enrich the lives of adults with disabilities. Their day program adults sort the shoes for us. They pair up the shoes, rubber band them together, and count them into bags of 25 pair. This creates a job for them at no cost to us.
Other organizations are also getting involved through Community Living. For example, a local church asked Community Living what they could do to help them. Community Livings’ answer….”We need more shoes!” That’s three organizations in partnership!!!
The bags of shoes are then picked up and stored until we’ve collected enough shoes to sell. A local business owner has donated an unused retail space to store the shoes at no charge. Again, partnership.
What is the impact of the sale of these shoes?
Shoes & Hope operates with no paid staff and mostly donated resources. The money from the sale of your shoes and Shoes Plus donations pays for project materials. It is also important to us to have an impact in our local communities as well. We are working on a partnership with Bright Futures Lincoln County to see how we can help people in our own rural communities that face some of the same water and sanitation challenges.
What is our 5-Year Plan?
Over the next 5 years, we hope to work with 21 local Guatemalan villages (already identified through our mission partner, CALMS ), to provide clean water and sanitation along with hygiene training.
What are your challenges?
Our biggest challenge is figuring out how to help our friends and families see what is going on outside of their own little world. How can anyone possibly understand the importance of clean water and sanitation unless they have been to a place where there is no clean water and sanitation?
How can we get YOU to care and get YOU to do something? When you do, all of a sudden YOU are making a difference! It's contagious!
Are you up for a challenge? Whether you come on this journey with us or simply get to know us and our mission through one of our partner organizations, you will be changed.
Shoes & Hope is a mission of love. It has changed my life and is changing the lives of others both here and in Central America.