A charitable organisation has embarked on an ambitious project to provide needy Jamaican children with properly fitted footwear, enabling them to focus on their education and participate fully in school and extracurricular activities.
The entity, Hummingbird Charities, last week launched an initiative, Sole 2 Sole, under the patronage of Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton.
The minister, speaking at the launch held at Toyota Jamaica in Kingston last week, said 150,000 primary and high-school students are currently on the PATH programme and that 18 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. He said the rising cost of shoes places a burden on many families.
"Many families will have to choose between meeting basic needs and providing their children with proper footwear," the minister said.
He said the situation "causes many children to wear ill-fitting or worn-out shoes, which impedes their ability to concentrate and limits their active participation in school and extracurricular activities. Furthermore, beyond the immediate educational challenges, children without properly fitted shoes often face bullying, negatively impacting their self-esteem and emotional well-being ".
Hummingbird Charities, through its Sole 2 Sole initiative, is seeking to make life easier for children who do not have proper footwear.
Though officially launched last week, Sole 2 Sole has been in existence for some time. Its chairman, Roger Anderson, said more than 600 pairs of shoes have so far been donated and the aim is to give out a further 5,000 pairs this year.
One school principal, Dr Donna Jarrett, vividly recalls how the Sole 2 Sole initiative created happy feet for nine students. She noted that most of the school's children come from lower-income families, and programmes like this give students renewed hope.
"Many times we have to give children at the school shoes or even tack up their shoes to send them back home," she said.
The principal said the nine students benefited from the donation of shoes last November, and she immediately noticed the difference. According to her, the nine recipients exuded confidence and they also "became the envy of other students who did not get a brand new pair of sneakers".