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Big Picture School students help transform jeans, milk jugs into shoes

Big Picture School students are repurposing everyday items to help save lives.

For the past three months, the LaFayette Central School District students, as part of a Service Learning Project, have been transforming gently-used denim material and plastic jugs into shoe uppers - the portion of the shoe that covers that foot - for children living in Uganda.

Students are working on the project with SoleHope, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to offer healthier lives and freedom from foot-related diseases for people living in Africa. SoleHope provides the shoe patterns and assembles the shoes. Students donate the denim, plastic and time it takes to cut the uppers.

“I thought it was a very worthwhile service learning project and my students have completely embraced it,” said Big Picture School educator April Palmer.

The hand-crafted shoes are made to help reduce the number of people impacted by jiggers- a harmful parasite commonly found in Uganda, Tanzania and other African countries with similar climates. Jiggers attach to bare human feet and burrow deep into the skin and lay eggs, which can cause life-threatening infection.

Removing jiggers from feet can be very painful, according to SoleHope. Each jigger must be individually dug out of the skin and children who have jiggers are not allowed to attend school.

Big Picture students’ goal is to make 300 pairs of shoe uppers by the end of this school year. Now, at about 35 percent of its goal, the project is at a standstill because students have run out of denim material.

Students, staff and community members interested in supporting the project can donate denim – any colors, washes, sizes and apparel types are acceptable – to Big Picture School’s Main Office during school hours.

In the images below, Big Picture School students work on cutting shoe uppers for their Service Learning Project.


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