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Student puts shoes on needy children’s feet

By Kwach Wakhisi
Monday, August 31st, 2020
Some beneficiaries of the ‘Pair a Feet’ initiative. Photo/PD/KWACH WAKHISI
In summary
    • Pair a Feet initiative was set up to provide fitting shoes to schoolgoing children.
    • It started off as a drive on Facebook, seeking gently-used or new shoes for pupils in Seme, Kisumu county, where the founder Juliet Odida comes from.
    • So far, the initiative has delivered 100 pairs of shoes to needy children and 30 school uniforms.

After losing her job in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Juliet Odida found purpose through ‘Pair a Feet’ initiative

It is said that fortune favours the brave—you won’t regret having a go, but you will regret not trying.

In the wake of the Covid-19, many people are grappling with job losses. One such individual is Juliet Odida, a teacher in training. 

Juliet was a sales and marketing representative at Vision Express, an optical firm that deals in lenses and frames.

However, dwindling of sales translated to the loss of her job.

“Losing my job was one of the lowest moments in my life. Apart from the financial anguish it caused, it also took a heavy toll on my mood, relationship and overall mental and emotional health.

But I decided to take control of the situation and maintain a positive attitude,” she says.

In the midst of this storm, a noble initiative was borne, ‘Pair a Feet’. 

She offers: “For many years, I have seen children go to school bare feet, but it had never occurred to me that I could do something to change the situation.

Sunday is always a market day and so on this particular one, I walked there to purchase some foodstuff.

My attention was drawn to a woman and her daughter. They were trying to bargain for a pair of school shoes that cost Sh400.  

They wanted to pay Sh300 instead. As they walked away, I noticed they were wearing completely worn out crocs,” she says.

Juliet called them back and asked the vendor to hand over the pair of shoes to them and paid the extra charge. 

In the process, she  thought of the shoes she and her family didn’t wear and wondered why not host a shoe drive and put all of that unused footwear to work.

At this point, Juliet posted on Facebook about the shoe drive and provided a phone number for people to easily reach her. 

“I thought people would just read it and pass. But shockingly, the response was overwhelming. I wasn’t even ready yet.

That’s how the initiative was birthed,” she says. Through it, Juliet collects both new and used shoes and finds them new feet. 

“I get shoes from friends, friends of friends and strangers who  have come on board to support the worthy course by giving out their gently worn shoes or send money to purchase new pairs, all of which are well accounted for.

So far, we have delivered 100 pairs of shoes to needy children and 30 school uniforms. My target group is the school-going children, especially adolescents. 

“But the initiative is open to anyone and everyone. Poverty knows no age,” she says. People from her community have equally embraced her initiative.

“They said they never thought someone would ever come up with such an idea and many of them have supported it by chipping in some money to buy uniforms for the adolescent girls.

The initiative hasn’t reached every corner of Seme, Kisumu county, but the few who have seen or heard of it do appreciate the efforts made,” says Juliet. 

Despite her efforts to see to it that the initiative becomes successful, Juliet says she faced a number of challenges, one of them being some people not honouring their pledges. 

“There is also the challenge of where to drop and store the shoes. I don’t have a designated drop off point; therefore, it is tedious and costly to traverse Nairobi region to get the shoes.

Once I get them, storing becomes another challenge and I have had to create space in my small bedroom where I keep them till I deliver them to various people,” she says.

For Juliet, this initiative is more than just a lesson in giving back to the society.

 “Actively participating in this drive has taught me valuable life lessons and given me an opportunity to make meaningful change.

It has taught me how easy it is to make ripple effects with small changes. It’s not all about shoes; it’s about changing lives and making a lasting impact. I am not quitting anytime soon,” she explains. 

Juliet, who is also passionate about girl empowerment and educating teens on matters sexuality and reproductive health, hopes to advance her mission and ensure no child, not only in her village, but also across the country, goes without something as simple as a properly fitting pair of shoes.

Open mind 

On whether she has plans of going to class to teach once she graduates, Juliet says she would love to engage in something more adventurous and involving, but is keeping an open mind.  

“Whatever opportunity comes first, I will grab it. So yes, if I am posted by the Teachers Service Commission first, I will teach.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t spare time to continue with ‘Pair a Feet’ initiative, she says. 

She adds: “For anyone who may be struggling to find their niche or discover something to do, involve yourself in something you find pleasure in doing.

It will for sure change your way of viewing things and even expose you to greater opportunities.”

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