Soles Shaping Souls
For Buckner, it can literately change a child’s life.
“So many kids have been helped by this organization” says Rachel Wallis, the program director of Buckner’s Shoes for Orphan Souls. “It has helped generations and it is very transformative.”
The ministry was first developed at the end of the Cold War era, during a time when third world countries were at their limit. None were struggling more so than the orphanages, who were overflowing with children that needed help. That is where KCBI, a radio station located in Dallas, came in.
“Ron Harris, the man in charge of the radio station, was serving in Russia at the time,” Rachel explained. “Information would come in from these third world countries of what they need, and he would collect shoes and donations via radio stations.”
As soon as KCBI announced its goal to send new shoes overseas to children in need, patrons began to come forward and do their part. In no time at all, the radio station was packed with a multitude of contributions. “Donations continued to pour in, and it started to become overwhelming for the radio station,” Rachel continued. “That’s when Buckner took over.”
At Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls, their mission is to ensure that each child is equipped with a new pair of shoes. When children receive a pair of new, unworn shoes it also provides them with a healthy life, a chance at an education, and a sense of hope. Especially in third world countries, children typically walk across marshy and rugged land to get water or go to school.
Because the children walk completely barefoot, they become susceptible to diseases and parasites. Parasites such as hookworm and tetanus, bacteria that live in the soil, enter a person’s body through scrapes and cuts on the feet. When a child becomes infected with the bacteria it can cause significant damage, such as stopping a child’s development and causing severe mental damage. Which is why, according to Rachel, the majority of the donations they receive go to developing countries.
“The United States has a more robust safety net,” she explained. “Whereas in other countries it is almost controversial to send the donations.”
The ministry has collected over four million pairs of shoes and has helped in over 83 countries since it first started twenty years ago.
Another way that Buckner tries to spread awareness is to get kids in the United States involved, and one way to do this is with the Shoes for Orphan Souls Birthday Club. In this birthday program, children have the chance to have a different kind of birthday. Instead of receiving presents, the children register online then ask friends and family members to give them new shoes so that it can be given to Buckner. The kids who arranged the shoe drive would receive a t-shirt and a certificate acknowledging the donation to Buckner. Once the donations are sent to the warehouse, they are then checked over, packaged, and shipped to where they are needed most either in the U.S. or in the developing countries. Bayless Elementary School was the recipient of a Buckner Shoes distribution in 2019.
Rachel recalls one local parent of two children that participated in the Shoes for Orphan Souls Birthday Club and made a massive donation. The family felt that they were extremely blessed with what they already had, so they wanted to give to others in need. It gave the children a chance to have a different kind of birthday, and to understand how others may not have the same kind of luxuries they have.
“It’s a good opportunity for parents to have conversations of with their children about poverty,” Rachel said. “It helps them to understand that others may not be so lucky.”
Due to COVID-19, however, many families have been social distancing and not having large birthday parties. As a way to step around this obstacle, the ministry has created ways for others to send donations.
Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls is also taking extra precautions to lessen the spread of the virus. In addition to creating a contactless drop off at ministry’s warehouse, the donations are placed in bins where they set for two weeks before being sent to locations with the most need. Upon entering the donation site, volunteers not only wear a mask but also have their temperatures check upon entering the warehouse.
Once again, they have developed a way for others to volunteer even from home. “People can volunteer virtually or even write notes to send along with the shoes,” Rachel said, providing examples of ways others can help. “We want the kids to know that the shoes come from a real person.” †
Those interested in volunteering or making a donation to the ministry can find information at the Buchner Shoes for Orphan Souls website at: buckner.org/shoes.