We are the crazy ones. We are the family that left our comfortable position chasing the American dream and traded it for burning trash, body odor, dirt and poverty. We are following a calling on our lives.
AIDS, Smallpox, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Yellow Fever…. Just a few of the big outbreaks of the past century. Most of them household names and most have been brought under control or eradicated.
To this very day there is an epidemic, an outbreak that is being rapidly spread throughout many of the poorest villages in Eastern Africa. It has a name and a face that are most often under the age of ten, over the age of 50, and sometimes disable or blind. The difference between this epidemic and the others is that there is no vaccination to cure it and dying from this epidemic does not have to be inevitable. Tungiasis, jiggers are completely preventable!
That is why as my wife Asher sat in our livingroom in 2010 after the kids were in bed one evening her heart felt very burdened for children the same ages as our own. She was watching an “afterthought” video clip on a blog. The video caught her attention because of the funny name it touted; “Jigger Removal.” Immediately after watching this video her heart was torn apart. Tears welled up in her eyes and she stared at my computer stunned. As she leaned in to the silence and peace of our beautiful home in suburbia america her heart was breaking for these mothers.
Did they know how to prevent jiggers? Did they know how to remove them or did they just have to wait for a team of westerners to come help them in a couple day clinic? What about the children… the pain they were in looked unbearable. As tears rolled down their cheeks their mothers embrace was hardly enough. But what about those with no mother, no father? How her heart broke even more for them! What if those were my own children? What if God had chosen for me to be born in a country like Uganda, Kenya, or Ethiopia instead of America? So that night she left the computer changed and the course of our lives changed with her.
Over the past 3 years Sole Hope has grown and formed into what it is today. I was not completely on board until I took a life altering trip to Uganda myself. I’ve heard it said that a trip to Africa will “wreck you” and it’s true. As I participated in my first foot washing and jigger removal clinic with my knees in the red dirt holding the feet of a small boy slightly older than my own I was wrecked.
There was a righteous anger that rose up in me. We HAVE to fight this epidemic. We have to educate the local people about the jiggers. We have to give them hope that they can take care of the children in their villages and they can do something in this fight. We have to employ more shoemakers to make more shoes to give to these children. We have to raise awareness back in the US and across the globe that this is happening to innocent children. And this little boy in front of me should never have to suffer like this again.
As we learned from several more short term trips to Africa Sole Hope needs someone on the ground in Uganda long term to make any kind of lasting impact. We needed someone to get in community with those suffering from jiggers, someone that is loco enough to tackle this huge problem and find ways to effectively fight back, someone who would take the Bible seriously… yeah that whole “care for the orphan and widow” part….. That “someone” was us.
Almost a year ago we sold our cars, house, and most of what was in it and left America with our children (7, 4, & 3 months). We were told more than once that we were crazy. “Who takes a 3 month old to a 3rd world country?”
We had some small idea of how bad the problem of jiggers is in eastern Uganda, but we were blown away when we came in contact with just how huge and complicated it is.
We have been in villages where having jiggers is the norm and there is no hope for a solution.
Many jigger victims are looked down upon by society as they see them as dirty or even cursed in this way many victims are left in deep poverty as they can not work or get help to seek treatment to remove jiggers as some have multiple jigger infestation in their feet.
After almost a year we have seen seasons of both tragedy and celebration, in the midst of hope and despair.
We continue to choose hope. It is hope for one child in front of us that we can help become jigger free. It is the hope in the fact that we have consistently paid our tailors and shoemakers a fair wage for the past 7 months. It is also in the hope and encouragement we receive when we hear about all of the Shoe Cutting Parties from across the U.S. and beyond!
Sole Hope is based in Asheville, NC with a branch in St. James, MO and Jinja Uganda. We provide jobs to 10 Americans and 23 Ugandans. We also teach shoemaking to Ugandans in need of jobs as well as the art of skilled tailoring. Weekly we do jigger removals where we see any number of children who have had their childhood stolen from them by a little bug called a jigger. We educate children and their caretakers about how to keep jiggers out of their feet as well as spraying some of the worst homes in the village to kill the jiggers in the soil and dust. Through caretaker participation we are able to give out shoes to the children who have none. We also pin a safety pin to the childs shirt, the one we used on their feet to remove their jiggers. This safety pin can be used while they are at home to remove any future jiggers before they get too painful.
So far, Sole Hope has led close to 90 foot washing and jigger removal clinics, removed over 10,000 jiggers from children and elderly, and given almost 3000 pairs of shoes. We have seen the difference Sole Hope can make in a child’s life and how education is going to be the key in fighting this epidemic long term. We are encouraged so many Americans are getting on board with what we are doing in Uganda and recognizing how big of a problem jiggers is in this region.
So how can YOU be a part? Check out our website, host a shoe cutting party, apply to come on one of our volunteer trips, pray for us, help spread the word, and consider giving. Your financial help ($10, $20, $50 & more) goes a long way to help families like these.
Also starting today you can help by spreading the word with the @CultivateWines $100,000 giveaway! Let’s get our social media bandwagon GOING on this and help our friends in Jinja, Uganda! Make sure to use the #cultivategives and #solehope on instagram + twitter + facebook!