Shoes bring hope to Jamaican children
Senior Caroline Kilby plans to team up with the cross-country team this spring for her senior project. The team will be hosting a “Save the Shoes” 5K run during the Country Fair to raise money for the athletic department and the team while Kilby collects athletic shoes for St. Mary’s Church Above Rocks School in Jamaica.
Each runner who registers for the “Save the Shoes” event will be asked to donate a pair of athletic shoes. Kilby’s inspiration for the shoe donations arose from Father Michael at the school in Jamaica. “I asked him if the students needed anything and he said, ‘yes our kids love to play soccer and run but have no shoes,’” Kilby said.
St. Mary’s Church Above Rocks School is the same school where Senior Project coordinator Louise Geczy and Emily Burdeshaw, class of ’09, traveled to visit and deliver thousands of donated books last year.
The location of the school is far from the pristine beaches of the Jamaican resorts. “The poverty is immense. Whole families are living in structures that are not any bigger [than my office] and not built as solidly as this room would be,” Geczy said.
“There were no stores, no coffee bars; the only beach Emily and I saw while we were there was when the airplane was taking off and landing because you were on the top of this mountain in the middle of bamboo forests,” Geczy said.
To many students at St. Mary’s Church Above Rocks School, technology was limited to the one pickup truck owned by the priests. “When people wanted to go places, they walked,” Geczy said, making the lack of shoes even more difficult for the children.
Hunger and undernourishment also concerns families in the parish. “There were children there that existed for sometimes very long periods on something they call ‘bag juice’ and if you looked at it, they were filled basically with sugar water and it was the consistency of hummingbird food. A lot of the children were undersized and sometimes during the school year, their only real meal would be the meal they got at the parish school,” Geczy said.
Geczy noticed most importantly that the Jamaicans she and Burdeshaw served were more than happy to accommodate their American visitors. “The friendliness and the approachability of the people were just as strong as the poverty was. Is there a different mindset? Yes there’s a different mindset, but people are still very concerned about bringing their children up right, the same kind of values we have here,” Geczy said.
Kilby hopes that by aiding the school with the donations of shoes, she can help to bring smiles to the children’s faces. “I just want to make the school happy in Jamaica,” Kilby said.
“I certainly think that she is doing something that is in the spirit of what Senior Project is all about, that she’s stepping outside of her comfort zone. She’s taking an idea about what she has, some passion, some interest, some commitment, and then she’s totally developing a project of her own that is independent of anything someone else might be doing. She’s taking an idea and she’s carrying it through from initial thought to concrete reality when she gets to the end of the whole process. And that’s what we’re hoping Senior Project will do for everybody, regardless of what kind of project they’re doing, not only community service [projects],” Geczy said.
Kilby’s community service based Senior Project aims to not only benefit the Jamaican school but also to connect the JC community. “I hope people realize that it’s not just a run, it’s a run to help other people by giving up what they don’t need, but what other people will value. I hope everyone comes together to help,” Kilby said.
Katie Clarke can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.