Packing Plenty of Shoes
By Martina Cappellano
On June 30, two Rye moms, Michele Cappellano and Tara Mathews, began a volunteer journey to help lay 4,000 bricks for a family of seven orphaned children in a small village outside of Nairobi, Kenya. The real journey, however, began weeks earlier, as the two prepared for their trip with the non-profit Youthful Faces Jenga by collecting bags of gently used shoes and sneakers from local Rye families, and monetary donations to make the project possible.
The two friends, along with Rye moms Stacey Massey and Susie Johnson, collected an astonishing 450 pounds of gently-used shoes, which were shared with families and orphans whom they met along the way in Kenya. Cappellano said, “For many children we met, this was the first pair of ‘new’ shoes or actual athletic sneakers that they had ever stepped into.” Matthews added, “Such a small thing made a big difference. So many of the grandmothers told us that with new shoes to wear, they would no longer feel ashamed at church on Sundays.”
In the small town of Itaava, several hours outside Nairobi, the Youthful Faces Jenga Kenya group assisted the local community in gathering river stones and sand in order to help masons create the interlocking building bricks that would become a sustainably built home. A neighbor commented, “Something like this has never happened here before. We are all very happy for the children.” At the end of the week, Margaret Mead’s message “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed its the only thing that ever has,” struck a chord with all of the volunteers and the townsfolk in Itaava.
The dedicated, unwavering support of the Rye community in sponsoring the project and the volunteers that spent long, hot days in the field have made a significant impact on the lives of those seven children in Kenya who previously shared a one-room house.
Youthful Faces Kenya has helped orphaned children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS to secure food, healthcare, and educational support for the past 15 years. To learn more about joining a JENGA volunteer trip to Kenya, follow Youthful Faces on Facebook and Instagram. All are invited to join the team for a fundraiser on September 18th from 6-10pm (Tickets are available at:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/youthful-faces-15th-annual-dinner-tickets-64003398889?aff=ebdssbdestsearch