4/19/2012 3:37:00 PM More than 500 pairs of shoes for Haitians
Sacred Heart School photo
Student council members at Sacred Heart School in Gervais and alumna Abbey Webster watch over shoe collection for Haiti.
GERVAIS — Abbey Webster, a 2003 graduate of Sacred Heart School in Gervais, approached the school's student council about a Lenten service project — to collect shoes to send to Haiti.
Weeks later, more than 500 pairs are on their way to the island nation's impoverished western district of Carrefour, where shoes are treasures.
"If someone is lucky enough to have shoes chances are that they do not fit properly or are old and tattered," Webster says. "The children experience pain and sores on their feet from walking in such poor conditions."
Many Haitians are embarrassed to go barefoot and so stay away from public gatherings, including church.
Webster went on a 10-day mission in Haiti in January where she taught Haitian orphans in Carrefour, which had been devastated by the 2010 earthquake. She served at a compound run by Grace International, a Christian group. About 15,000 refugees remain on the property.
"What I brought the children was minimal compared to what they gave me," Webster explains. "I was shown that a smile is the universal language and a hug can change your day." She attended church in a building that is a converted voodoo temple.
Webster recently obtained a teaching degree and has been working as a substitute teacher at Sacred Heart.
Student leaders at the school were stunned by the response to the shoe drive. “We were expecting to only get about 100 pairs of shoes, we got so much more," says Naomi Saalfeld, a seventh grader and council president."It was amazing. We are very grateful for all the people who care so much about others.”
Jack Turner, a seventh grader and vice president, thought about how difficult it would be to get through life shoeless, stepping on rocks and other sharp things. "I was really shocked to find out that we had collected more than 500 pairs," he said. "It made me feel really good to be helping other people.”