Just in time for the giving spirit of the holidays, students and faculty at Fairwind Learning Center spent November collecting enough shoes to donate to kids all over the world.
The Marblehead center, which has programs for toddlers, preschoolers and those transitioning to kindergarten, collected 187 pair of shoes. The charity project was part of the Soles4Souls initiative, which has distributed more than 30 million pairs of shoes to 127 countries since its inception in 2006.
“We were trying to be thoughtful of choosing a charity for a younger group of children, so we picked something we thought they could connect to,” said Fairwind Director Tiffany Uttam. “All children are able to understand or empathize with the feeling of not having shoes.”
Uttam said she thought of the idea after watching an interview of musician Michael Franti, wherein he mentioned the Soles4Souls project. She said she admired the musician’s reasoning that hasn’t worn shoes for many years because he wanted to connect with the fact that so many people in the world have never owned a pair.
The charity effort received a slew of positive feedback from parents and the whole town, said Uttam. The center held a community meeting on Thursday where they introduced the initiative to those in attendance and announced the number of shoes donated.
At the beginning of November, before the donation drive began, Uttam displayed a slideshow presentation to help the students understand what it would be like to not own a single pair of shoes. She said she also brought in different types of shoes, such as sneakers, winter boots, and dress shoes, and asked the students to raise their hands if they owned any of them.
“It was a way to demonstrate how fortunate we all are to have all these kinds of shoes, while there are people out in the world who don’t have any,” Uttam said.
It is important to teach children the importance of showing compassion and helping others, she said, which is why the learning center hosts a variety of charity events throughout the center year. Uttam said the Soles4Souls project had the students excited to come in everyday with pairs of their own shoes to donate, and even some of their parents’ shoes.
“I think, besides the wonderful gift of teaching children about compassion and charity, it was great for parents to go through their closets too with the whole idea of recycling as well,” Uttam said. “All these charities are so important but for me it was so powerful for these children to go into their closets and choose things that they can share.”