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Shoes the ‘Sole Hope’ to fight parasites in Uganda

I typically reserve this section to specifically talk about education, but today I’m going to mix things up.
Once every few weeks, each of the Post’s reporters takes a turn working the weekend. During the weekend, we don’t just cover our beats — we cover any community events or breaking news that might happen.
Last weekend was my weekend to work, and my one assignment for the weekend was to attend a “shoe-cutting” party at Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church.
At first I thought, “What on earth is a shoe-cutting party?”
After a phone call and a quick Google search, I realized the party had nothing to do with destroying shoes, but with creating new shoes.
The organization behind the shoe-cutting party, Sole Hope, recycles jeans and tires to make shoes for children in Uganda.
Sole Hope volunteers and staff go to different villages surrounding Jinja, Uganda, set up medical clinics, remove jiggers from the children’s feet and distribute the shoes to prevent jiggers in the future.
Jiggers are parasitic sand fleas that bore into a host’s body and lay egg sacs, which cause painful swelling. They often make their home in people’s feet.
When I arrived at Saint Peter’s Saturday morning, I found myself in the church’s downstairs fellowship hall area.
As I glanced around the room, I noticed a dozen or so tables, with a pile of denim neatly folded at each seat. On top of each denim stack were several pattern pieces, a permanent marker and a pair of scissors.
It was there I met Holly Jones, Sole Hope’s United States office director.
Jones greeted everyone with a bright smile and her bubbly personality.
She was a lot younger than I expected — in fact, she’s fairly close to my age. She graduated from South Rowan in 2005 and Western Carolina University in 2009.
Sole Hope was founded in Asheville, but Jones moved the organization’s United States office to Salisbury at the beginning of June.
Jones said that when she moved to Asheville, she knew she wanted to be involved and volunteer somewhere.
Over the years, she’s been able to see the organization grow and develop.
“It turned into a passion of mine,” she said.
Jones doesn’t just work on the organization’s stateside operations, though.
Each year, she travels to Jinja to take place in the clinics herself. Next year, she’ll begin traveling to Uganda twice a year.
Jones said that each trip solidifies and grows her passion for Sole Hope’s purpose and mission.
“Each trip I take just drives my passion even further,” she said. “This is something God’s called me to do.”
Seeing the change that takes place in the children before and after the jiggers are removed is a powerful experience, Jones added.
“Because of Sole Hope, they’re pain free,” she said.
She told a story of a little boy who came to Sole Hope’s outreach house in Jinja with an extreme case of jiggers one time when she was in Uganda.
“He came in with such a sad look on his face,” she said. “The problem he was having was affecting his entire life.”
For two weeks, the Sole Hope team would remove jiggers from his feet.
By the end of her time there, Jones said the boy was playing soccer with the Sole Hope team.
“It was a complete 360,” she said, adding, “His story will always be on my heart.”
Jones also said she loves the way Sole Hope employs local Ugandan workers as tailors, shoemakers, groundskeepers, security and housekeepers.
“Two of our employees have eight children — it’s a husband and wife,” she said.
The couple also brought in their nieces and nephews, bringing their family’s size to 14 — 12 children and two adults.
“They are able to do that because of their jobs at Sole Hope,” Jones said.
Not only does Sole Hope allow Ugandans to take care of their families financially, they’re helping the older generation help the younger generation by providing them with shoes and teaching them how to better take care of themselves, she said.
Interested in getting involved with Sole Hope? Visit their website at www.solehope.org .

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