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New shoes celebrate a new life for Guatemalan mom

JOCOTENANGO, Guatemala – Gratefulness overcomes Rufina Hernandez when she talks about her shoes. They are the second pair of new shoes she’s ever owned, and each of them were from Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® through the local Buckner Family Hope Center.“Shoes are happiness,” she says with tears in her eyes. “I hope God blesses the people who have given these shoes for their giving hearts.”

“Happiness” is only the beginning of what the 32-year-old mother discovered at the Hope Center. Rufina embraced education and hope too.

“I work near the Family Hope Center cleaning houses,” she says. “I was walking by one day on my way to work and I read a sign that said ‘CONALFA.’ I went inside and asked questions about how I could be a part of that opportunity.”

CONALFA is a program instituted by the Guatemalan government to promote literacy and basic education among adults, and the Hope Center in Jocotenango is a site where individuals can take classes.

Rufina thought her opportunity to learn was lost long ago. The oldest of 13 children, her mother and stepfather pulled her out of school after first grade. Her mother had just had her fourth baby and the family had too little money and too many mouths to feed to afford luxuries like school supplies. Rufina spent the rest of her childhood helping raise her siblings, and the dream of finishing school slipped further and further out of reach.

When she inquired about CONALFA, Rufina was thrilled about the possibility of going back and finishing her primary education. Her husband had his doubts at first – money is tight for them, just like it was for Rufina’s mother and stepfather. He was afraid the course and materials would be too expensive, but when the couple learned that Buckner provides everything free of charge, he was sold.

“Now he says that if it’s something I really want, one of my dreams, I should continue to my goal,” Rufina says.

She began classes in March 2014 and finished her coursework through sixth grade. In less than a year, she became literate.

“It was hard,” she says. “I wake up very early and go to sleep late to get everything done. Sometimes you feel like you can’t do something because you’re tired or you feel you can’t continue. God has helped me to have faith and that strength that helps me continue with my classes.”

Rufina has become a different person since finding Buckner.

“These classes have helped my confidence and self-esteem a lot,” she says. “Before, I was depressed and not that happy. Now, I have a lot of energy and I want to continue. It’s even helped me be a better mother to my kids. It’s given me a purpose.”

She also made friends through the classes. She and her classmates are continuing their commitment to education by starting classes in English and computers at Buckner this year. Rufina says she and her friends cheer each other on, and her Buckner social worker encourages her, too.

“Personally, for me, Buckner has been a blessing in my life, not just in education, but spiritually, too. When we receive home visits from our case worker, they have prayed for me and my family and our needs, so that really helps.”

Rufina’s family and many others depend on the humanitarian aid they receive from Buckner through new shoes, backpacks and school supplies. The provision of these basic, yet often unaffordable, necessities helps ensure that her children remain in school and finish their education on schedule.

“I hope this help doesn’t end, because for me and for many others Buckner has been a big blessing,” she says. “When my kids get new shoes, they are really, really happy. My youngest, Priscilla, who’s 6, woke me up at 5:15 this morning saying, ‘Mom, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!’ because she knew she was going to get new shoes and a backpack today.”

Buckner gives 3 millionth shoe to Guatemalan child

By Lauren Hollon Sturdy

JOCOTENANGO, Guatemala – Dulce Alquijay Raymundo smiled deeply as Buckner social worker Perla Maldonado crouched beside her and slid new pink and white athletic shoes on her feet. Maldonado laced them and tied them. They were ready to wear. And Dulce was ready to wear them proudly.

The 5-year-old jumped for joy, her arms in the air, her dark pigtails flying. It was a moment 16 years in the making. On Jan. 12, Dulce was the recipient of the 3 millionth pair of shoes distributed through Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®, the largest humanitarian aid project of Buckner International.

Buckner President and CEO Albert Reyes became emotional when speaking of the accomplishment. Since 1999, individuals across the United States have donated shoes, led shoe drives, sorted the footwear and placed them on the feet of vulnerable children around the world. Read the rest of this entry

Not forgotten in Ethiopia

Children in Ethiopia were so excited to learn that there were plenty of new shoes for them in exactly their sizes – they were not forgotten.

Haley Radeka went to Ethiopia earlier this year on a shoe delivery trip with Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls and wrote about her experience here. In the following excerpt from her original blog post, she reflects on seeing the joy in children’s faces when they realized there were new shoes for them.

We broke for lunch and came back to our same groups to pass out shoes. I will never be able to describe the moment of cleaning a child’s feet and putting on a new pair of socks and shoes. It is so tender and beautiful, and heart wrenching all at the same time.

The school collected the shoes sizes ahead of time so all we had to do was pick a pair and match them to a child. As we began and they started to see what we were doing, the shouting of “Miss! Miss!”started again.

As we moved from child to child, I could see the panic in some of their eyes that their turn never would come. The joy that the last few children expressed as they received their new shoes was an amount of joy that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. They realized they were not forgotten about and that they too would receive a new pair of shoes.

To read the rest of Haley’s story and see more photos from the trip, click here.

As 2014 comes to a close and you begin making plans for next year, take some time to prayerfully consider whether God is calling you to serve orphans and vulnerable children through a shoe delivery trip. Click here to view the list of 2015 shoe trips.

A small request and a thankful heart

Julia and her daughter found a friend in Buckner Peru staff member Alonso Alegre, who provided them each with a pair of new shoes one day when he was working at the warehouse.

One morning I went to get some work done at the Buckner Peru humanitarian aid warehouse in Huaycan, a suburb of Lima, and outside I heard a girl talking to an older girl, debating if she should knock on the door to ask for a pair of shoes. Finally, the girl decided to knock and I approached smiling because I knew what she wanted. I asked to her to wait for a couple of hours while I finished my work, and told her after that I would look for her to give her a pair of shoes.

After 15 minutes, they knocked on the door again – this time not to ask for something, but to offer me a jug of pineapple juice. That made me very happy.

Continuing my work, I realized I was very hungry and that sadly I had forgotten my lunch. However, someone knocked on the door again. It was the little girl carrying a plate of salad and a main dish. I couldn’t believe they were doing all that for me.

When I finished my work, I looked for her and her mother, Julia, who works in the kitchen at the Buckner warehouse. I went up with both the girl and her mother and helped them find for a pair of shoes they liked. They were very thankful, they hugged me and the little girl gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Julia thanked me and said that because she was going to save some money by not having to buy new shoes for her daughter for school, she was very happy. She received new shoes as well. They thanked me again, we hugged and she told me I didn’t have to worry about bringing my own lunch or eating breakfast, because she was going to wait for me with food. Read the rest of this entry

10 ways to promote your holiday shoe drive

Editor’s Note: Two years ago we brought you a post on fun ways to promote your holiday shoe drive. We’ve brought it back from the archives this year, updated with a few new ideas.

By Lauren Hollon Sturdy

If daydreams of turkey and stuffing are filling your head or you’re already cranking up the Christmas classics, keep in mind that the holidays are also an excellent time to give back and serve others.

If you’re looking for a way to help people in need this holiday season, look no further than a shoe drive! Here are 10 ideas to get you started on making your Thanksgiving or Christmas shoe drive memorable.

  1. Take advantage of Black Friday bargains. If waking up to shop at the crack of dawn is your Super Bowl, make sure to leave room in your cart for some new shoes! Got friends and family who can’t resist a good deal? Ask them to keep shoes in mind when they’re in stores after Thanksgiving, battling it out over Blu-ray players and flat screen TVs.
    Read the rest of this entry