A group of shoeless children in Haiti play together in the streets, accepting it as their way of life. However, non-profit organizations are trying to do all they can to help the barefoot children’s cause.
To spread awareness, UMHB’s athletic department, the Student Government Association, Hope for the Hungry and Wal-Mart all partnered to raise money for children in Haiti in an event called Sole 2 Soul.
Students, faculty and staff were challenged to go without footwear on April 15, to experience what life is like for orphans with no shoes. They also had the chance to donate shoes, buy new shoes or contribute money during the one-day event.
Student body president, Tatenda Tavaziva, and sophomore offensive lineman, Max Taylor, helped organize the shoe campaign.
He approached Tavaziva one day in the SUB, saying he thought it would be a great idea if some time this semester the university could be challenged for everyone to walk around barefoot to bring more awareness to the cause.
Tavaziva said, “I was in line waiting for a Chick-fil-A sandwich, and this random comment was said. In my head, I’m like great idea, love your heart, but there is no way this is happening: OSHA, health code risk, liability insurance. All of those factors are the first things that stick out to me. I will look into it, but just don’t think it’s going to happen.”
What started out with just a conversation in the SUB, with little hope due to university health codes, four months later resulted in raising $2,600 to help the children of Haiti.
For Tavaziva, the most shocking thing about the process of the event was that little planning was involved.
“No committee meetings, no fancy paperwork or looking at different health codes. Door after door was being opened,” he said.
Tavaziva was invited to speak about his recent trip to Haiti by a professor in the economic department and left with a possibility of Wal-mart jumping on board.
“I told them about my trip to Haiti and what Sole 2 Soul now means. And one of the coolest things was that the son of the manager of the Belton Wal-Mart tells me he would go talk to his dad to see what they could arrange.”
The challenge was to step outside of yourself for just one day. Tavaziva knew it would not be an easy day for most, but his hope was, “maybe for one day we can get a taste of what these kids go through every day of their lives. And that is what this day is about. It’s not for show, not for my last day in office, not for the football team trying to look good. It’s to go through a day of what these kids go through every day of their lives.”
Sophomore business fi-nance major, Lindsey Weaver, and also an SGA representative, participated in the event and hopes this is something that will continue.
“Since we are having such a high response from people throughout the community, it would be a great idea to have this event yearly. We can advertise it more to the community – this is what we are doing and this is why. It then can become a community-wide event that can focus on pursuing a common goal,” she said.
For Weaver, the event was far beyond what she expected.
“It has been a cool experience. Just to see three little kids walk in here with $10 in their hands and say I want to buy a little kid a pair of shoes makes it all worth it. The smallest one said, ‘I want to buy one for my friend.’ That is how it should be. We should want to help them and care about them,” Weaver said.
Freshman biology major, Sara Hayward, said Sole 2 Soul made her much more aware of the reality children are facing day to day.
“I never really think about it that much. I am so used to always having shoes or multiple pairs of shoes. And to think there are kids out there who don’t even have anything that is so essential, just something to cover your feet. It has really opened my eyes that there are people who are not as privileged as we are and how God has blessed me, that he has put me in a situation where I do not have to worry about getting my feet cut or getting infections.”
Hayward’s goal is to see the event bring people together around campus.
“I would really love Sole 2 Soul to be something that we do every year, (so) we can all come together, not as athletes, not as students, but just as one group and be able to say we want to help.”