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Education Exchange and “Share Your Soles”
The Path – Part 1
By Catherine Wayland


Dear IF readers,

As we have spoken about over the last few months, here at Education Exchange during the Year 2007, we are going to discuss teaching values. As an American mother of 2 young boys and teacher-in-training, I am stumped on one lesson – gratitude. If my children and students’ experiences are so comforted with toys, new clothes, schoolbooks, supplies, and sports games – how can I ask them to appreciate things? They don’t know anything different. I want my children and students to know that comfort is a gift of their fortunate lives rather than a necessity or what every other child in the world has.

When Beth and I called Mona Purdy one day after finding her organization "Share Your Soles" on the web, we knew we had found a different kind of experience to share with our own children and students. On January 4, I went into my son Jackson’s school P.S. 51 in Manhattan, New York and asked if I could bring this type of experience to the 5 th graders. I shared the story of how "Share Your Soles" began. Here is some text from their promotional video,

"In 1999, on a trip through Central America, Mona Purdy saw children painting tar on the soles of their bare feet to protect them, because they didn’t have shoes. On the flight home, still shaken by these images, Mona sat next to an American orthopedic surgeon. He told Mona that if these children had shoes to wear, there would be a lot less need for him to regularly travel to the area to perform amputations of children’s infected limbs.

Once she was home, Mona decided to do something for these children. She organized a shoe drive, and asked neighborhood schools and families to donate any used children’s shoes they no longer needed. The response was terrific - over 5,000 pairs of shoes were collected in a few weeks. After sending them to an orphanage in Guatemala, Mona thought her work was done.

But the shoes kept on coming. Mona had touched upon an idea that resonated with people, a simple idea of children here, blessed with so much, sharing with those who have so little.

And so Share Your Soles was born, privately and quietly. Not connected with any church, organization, or government. Not espousing any political, religious, or philosophical point of view. Share Your Soles was born and continues, as it is today – a group of volunteers with a simple mission. "

The administration and Parents Association of P.S. 51, the principal Ms. Nancy Sing-Bok and her staff, became teary-eyed as they watched. "Yes," they said, "Let’s bring this to our children." And so dear readers, we will in a phrase, "follow the path of the shoes" together. During the week of February 12 th the week of Love and Valentine’s Day here in the United States, I will present the concept of "Share Your Soles" to the 5 th graders of P.S. 51. These students will begin to collect their own gently used and outgrown shoes to give to some less fortunate children in another country. I hope to bring you some direct quotes from the children as they muddle through the questions of "Why doesn’t every child go to Skechers and Nike for new shoes?" "Because, they don’t", I will respond. A journey of new understanding will begin. We hope you join us as readers for this very important trip around the world together.


Cat Wayland
Catherine Wayland,
Editor and Co-Founder of International Family Magazine

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