In the corner of the cafeteria at Westminister Catawba Christian School, theres a pile of jeans hundreds of pairs of them in a bunch large enough for students to lounge on.
Next to them, bags upon bags of empty milk jugs are stacked at least four feet high. And at a nearby table sit students methodically cutting the jeans and milk cartons into seemingly abstract shapes that will one day save children in Uganda from a great deal of pain.
These students are working on a project for Sole Hope, an Asheville, N.C.-based charity introduced to the students by teacher Nathan Aylestock in their Bible course. He showed them a video about Sole Hope to inspire them to come up with a project to help others.
And they were like, Well, lets do that, he said. And they just took it up right away.
Sole Hopes mission is to help save children in East Africa from jiggers sand fleas that burrow into the bare feet of children and cause pain, infection and sometimes even the need for amputation.
Sole Hope with the help of students such as those at WCCS collects used jeans and empty milk jugs and spends days or even weeks cutting out pieces to make shoes. The WCCS pieces will be sent to Uganda where local women have been taught how to sew those pieces into shoes for children, with soles made of recycled rubber.
You know Toms shoes? said eighth-grade student Emma Holtel. They look a lot like that.
The pieces of denim the WCCS students are cutting will be used to make shoes for very young children in Uganda, Aylestock said. The denim makes up the majority of the shoe, while the plastic from the milk jugs is used to reinforce the heel to make them last longer.
And the support the students have received has been outstanding, Aylestock said.
The students set a goal of collecting 150 pairs of jeans and a hundred or so milk jugs. Theyve received more than 550 pairs and more milk jugs than theyll ever use. Now groups of students work for hours turning all of that material into items for Sole Hope.
The activity teaches the students the importance of helping others, Aylestock said.
They see a need and how they can meet that need with things they already have, he said.
Sitting around the table, armed with scissors and small piles of jeans and jugs, the students say theyre enjoying the work.
It makes me realize how much we have here, said eighth-grader Olivia Fink.
And whats even better than just giving money is actually getting to participate in the work, Emma Holtel said.
Fellow jean-cutter and student Alana OBrien said participating in the project made her feel special and important.
Rachel Southmayd • 803-329-4072