WEST BOULEVARD: Shoeman Water Project pays to dig water wells in Kenya

Friday, November 18, 2011 | 3:27 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The French, English Language Learning and Spanish classes at West Junior High School are sponsoring a drive to collect shoes for Kenyans.

Known as the Shoeman Water Project, the drive will continue until Tuesday. All types of shoes will be accepted, regardless of the condition, including cleats, baby shoes, sandals, tennis shoes and boots.

All donated shoes must be tied or rubber-banded together.

The top three collectors will receive a prize from the school’s spirit store. Additionally, the top French, ELL, Spanish and faculty collectors will each receive a prize.

Last year, West helped break the Guinness World Record for the longest line of shoes by collecting 3,410 pairs. Schools, churches and businesses in mid-Missouri and the St. Louis area collected a total of 24,962 pairs.

“It’s a great project that doesn’t overwork anyone,” French teacher Janet Russell said. “Sometimes people don’t have a lot of time for charity, but this doesn’t really take a lot of time or money.”

 The Shoeman Project

“The Shoeman,” George Hutchings, began traveling to Kenya in 1998 on humanitarian aid projects, according to his website. In 2008, Hutchings began the Shoeman Water Project, which focuses on clean water.

Many villagers in Kenya must walk more than one mile each way to collect water for their families and livestock.

Shoes collected for the project are resoled, if needed, and given a second life in developing countries where they sell for 25 cents to $1.25. The shoes protect people's feet from deadly parasites and infections.

Money collected from the resale of shoes is used to buy drilling equipment for wells.

According to the website, between August 2008 and June 2011, more than 1.5 million pairs of shoes have been collected. Four water-well drilling rigs have been purchased by the project, and more than 250 wells have been drilled around the world.

The project’s goal this year is to collect 1 million pairs of shoes. West is hoping to contribute 2,011 pairs.

“I think it’s a great cause,” Spanish teacher Carey Hughes said. “It doesn’t cost anything other than our time.”

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