Maddie Brown is teaming up with the Asheville-based Christian non-profit, Sole Hope for her senior project.
At Franklin High School, seniors are required to complete a project on an approved topic. Students must write a research paper, make a presentation board and present an eight-minute speech in front of a panel of judges before they are permitted to graduate.
Brown decided to work with Sole Hope, which officially became a non-profit in April of 2010. The organization was started by Asher Collie, who was compelled to do something after a chance encounter with a YouTube video. The video showed children in Africa who were contracting fatal diseases from not having proper shoes. The video led Collie and other volunteers out of their comfort zones, and to villages in Uganda and Zambia. Sole Hope is known worldwide and volunteers work tirelessly to help children in Africa.
“Sole Hope came to my church a few months ago and showed us a video and invited us to a shoe party they were having the next day,” explained Brown. “It really touched my heart and I instantly knew that I wanted to be more involved.”
The organization is comprised of passionate, committed people who work toward putting closed-toed shoes on African children, one pair at a time. The organization hosts “shoe parties” to make the shoes and to teach the children about the importance of wearing shoes. The inside of the shoes are made from soft, durable material similar to cotton fabric and the top part of the shoe is made from durable cloth, usually denim or upholstery fabric. The steps in making the shoes are fairly simple, which allows families to continue making shoes after Sole Hope concludes their trips to Africa.
As a part of her senior project, Brown will be working with the Sole Hope team to organize shoe parties at Franklin High School, and to bring awareness to the nonprofit. “My goal is to at least make 150 shoes for Sole Hope so they can take it over on one of their mission trips,” she said.
Brown plans to organize FHS faculty shoe parties and parties for the public , where she will teach volunteers from the community how to make the shoes. Brown is also selling Sole Hope stickers, bookmarks and shirts to help raise money for the organization’s trip to Africa. “Getting the faculty involved is great, they want to help and the volunteers have offered to help so teachers don’t have to miss class to learn how to make the shoes,” said Brown.
And as part of her project, Brown is collecting old blue jeans and cotton upholstery fabric that can be recycled and reused to construct the shoes.
According to their website, Sole Hope has already evolved from its original intent and is continuing to grow. “Along the way, we realized we could not only help African children, but we could help African men and women by teaching them a simple trade —how to make shoes. And so we began,” reads the mission statement. “ Then we realized we could teach others— homeless, unemployed, recovering addicts, and nonprofits— how to make shoes, so they could earn a decent living and raise funds for their causes. So Sole Hope is touching lives in the U.S. and Africa, and we’re only getting started!”
Sole Hope provides volunteers with the shoe patterns that are needed to make the shoes. Volunteers trace the pattern onto both types of cloth which are used in the process. Both patterns are then cut out and bundled together with rubber bands and sent back to Asheville for volunteers to deliver the shoes on their mission trips to Africa. During the trips, volunteers teach the locals how to finish them so they are able to continue doing it in the future. The organization also provides Bibles and other items the children may need or want.
Sole Hope works with a small village outside of Kampala to bring jobs to local families in and around Uganda, Africa and provides shoemakers a chance to clothe the feet of the children in their village. The money they earn also helps feed, clothe, educate, and house the children of the village.
The organization is working in Ndola, Zambia alongside Wiphan (Widows and Orphans Care Ministries) to bring jobs to widows whose daily lives are impacted by poverty due to cultural traditions that make them outcasts to society. Many of the women that they help are caring for orphans even when they aren’t able to provide for themselves.
In Asheville, Sole Hope provides a safe environment for local men and women to work to support their families.
The organization now has many skilled shoemakers that give back and provide hope to the shoemakers by teaching them the trade.
“The guys from Sole Hope, and Asher have been great helping me learn everything I need to know,” Brown said. “My mentor Katy has also been working really hard to help me. I am so thankful for the opportunity to give back and try to make a difference,” said Brown.
To learn more about the organization, visit their website at www.SoleHope.com