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Students send shoes to Africa

High school collection effort hits full stride

POSTED: February 13, 2013 4:00 a.m.
David Renner Dawson Community News/

Martin Kumi, left, and Michael Williams stand before the donated shoes from Dawson County High School.

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Dawson County High School students are sending their old shoes to Ghana, West Africa.

What may seem like a strange gesture or different way of getting rid of old shoes could make a huge difference to Third World children thanks to the help of Martin Kumi and The Soul Project.

"Our involvement with The Soul Project began back in November," said Michael Williams, Dawson County High School teacher. "After reading a novel for class, some of the students expressed to me a deep concern over the plight of people in Third World countries."

Williams said that when the students asked him about any charity organizations that directly benefited African countries, he told them about his friend Martin Kumi, the founder of The Soul Project.

"We decided to engage in a shoe drive, but that we would wait until we had collected a few hundred pairs of shoes before we invited Martin to visit our school," Williams said.

"Realizing that the semester was almost over, I asked Casey Johnson, president of Jobs for Georgia Graduates at the high school, if she thought that she could mobilize her club to assist."

The answer was "resoundingly positive," Williams said, and the idea was pitched to Kathie Fodor, director of Jobs for Georgia.

According to the Georgia Department of Labor Web site, Jobs for Georgia Graduates is a school-to-work transition program available to local high school students. The program is sponsored by the state labor department.

"I have approximately 40 students and we do community service projects," Fodor said. "We've collected about 300 pairs of shoes from different schools in the area for The Soul Project."

According to Fodor, the school shoe drive couldn't have happened without Williams.

"He's the one that met Martin [Kumi] and got us involved," she said.

On Feb. 8, Kumi spoke to Williams' class and shared his story.

"There are children in the world walking barefoot, without shoes on their feet. Every time they receive shoes, you can see the joy and enthusiasm and happiness," he said.

"I want to make sure that every child will not have to experience the pain that I went through when I was 8 years old," he added.

Kumi shared how he had received a near fatal injury while trying to get to school.

"My family was poor, so my brother and I had one pair of shoes between the two of us. He was wearing the shoes that day," he said. "I was running to school ... and I remember there was a big rock on the road. I stepped on it and the rock cut my foot."

Kumi remembers his mother telling him: "Martin, we don't have money to take you to the doctor, so we don't know if you're going to die or survive."

"At that moment, my heart was breaking and I said: ‘God, why am I the one that has to die?' So I made a promise," Kumi recalled. "I said, ‘God, if you give me a chance to come to America, I'm going to make sure that every child - not just in Ghana - around the world won't have to go through the pain that I went through.'"

He said God answered his prayers and in 2005 he began The Soul Project.

Since its inception, Kumi has collected more than 500,000 pairs of shoes. His current goal is to raise 80,000 pairs before March.

Williams said he and the students are glad to be helping Kumi.

"Students from JGG have promised me that they will do whatever they can to make it happen," he said.

The students plan to make the shoe drive a community effort by standing at Hwy. 53 and Perimeter Road with signs to tell people to drop shoes off at the school.

"Being involved in The Soul Project really broadened our students' global realization and awareness. They are now a little more educated as to the plight of people in far-off places," Williams said.

"I am deeply humbled by the love, excitement, and concern for others our students exhibited. I would be remiss not to mention the Dawson community as a whole. What we may lack in size, we make up for in heart."

Williams also said that he would like to make this an annual campaign.
"In order to celebrate our efforts, in addition to increasing community awareness, I would like to set up a charity event, either on our campus or somewhere in the county," he said.

"I would love to host a parade and to provide jump zones for the kids, along with a variety of other fun activities. I would love for the Dawson community to come together in a day of celebration."

 

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