Kids in Puerto Alegre,
Peru, already are wearing their new expandable shoes, given to them by Evans-based Shoes Without Borders, as they wait in
line to be fed. (Courtesy Cesar Torres.)
After making a grueling trip in October to deliver specially designed expandable shoes and food
to mostly indigenous residents in isolated areas of Colombia and Peru, the Evans-based nonprofit Shoes Without Borders —
or Zapatos Sin Fronteras — is turning its sights closer to home for the holidays.
On Dec. 19 at 5 p.m., it will present 300 new
jackets, purchased at a discount from JCPenney with donations, to students at Evans’ Centennial Elementary. The shopping
came after 30 teachers recommended 10 needy students apiece to receive the jackets, and those students then were measured.
This is the second year for the Shoes Without Borders jacket donation at Centennial.
in Evans, where Shoes Without Borders will present jackets to 300 students on Dec. 19. (School website)
“I started helping them
at the school when I was with my church, helping out at the food bank,” said Shoes Without Borders co-founder Cesar
Torres. “They talked to me about how it was a low-income school and I couldn’t believe it when they told me they
had eight different languages spoken in that school. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I thought it was just English and Spanish.’
That’s why we chose that school.
“We chose the jackets instead of shoes for here because you can find shoes here pretty
easy. When I was growing up, and my mom and dad were working at the (now JBS) meat plant, they were getting a paycheck every
week, but there were three (kids). I noticed when it was time to buy the jackets, they would struggle. We were not poor, but
it was hard for them. So we talked about it and said, ‘What if we do jackets just because it’s an expensive item
and it’s cold in Colorado?'”
Cesar Torres puts a shoe
on a child in Desierto de la Guajira in Colombia. (Courtesy Cesar Torres.)
Torres owns and runs his own marketing firm, Promo
Marketing Solutions, concentrating on bi-lingual promotion, but devotes much of his attention and passion to Shoes Without
said the organization might consider lining up shoes for the Centennial students instead of jackets in the future, because
many at the Evans elementary, especially those from Burma or Belize, wear sandals year-round because of the cost of shoes.
But for at least one more holiday season, they’re sticking to jackets for Centennial.
Since Cesar and his brother, Abraham,
started Shoes Without Borders 11 years ago, the organization has concentrated on distributing shoes to impoverished areas
of Mexico, plus the Central American nations of Costa Rica and Guatemala.
More specifically, it mostly has worked with El Rodeo, in
the Cuilco municipality and the Huehuetanango department of Guatemala, 175 miles northwest of Guatemala City. In addition
to delivering shoes there, as it did last December, Shoes Without Borders is hoping to construct a cafeteria next to a school
in the El Rodeo area and feed students the school day.
In October, Shoes Without Borders branched out, with Torres and two others
— Silvano Pedro from Greeley and Jorge Hurtado of Longmont — journeying with shoes and food on the trip to Peru
In 10 days, the Shoes Without Borders contingent visited four spots in Colombia, including in the drought-stricken
area of Desierto de la Guajira in the north, on the border with Venezuela; and also in the south part of the nation.
group also traveled four hours down the Amazon River in a motorboat to reach a tribe in Puerto Alegre, Peru.
When they later crossed the
river to reach were they were going to stay for the night, a horrendous thunderstorm struck. They couldn’t turn back.
“The person driving the boat was a native, and he’s a leader
in that tribe,” Torres said. “He said, ‘Just take you boots off because if we go down, you’re going
to go straight down if you have those on. Stay close to each other.’ We started praying and it was like a movie. A journey
to cross the river that usually takes 30 minutes took us two hours. We were hitting islands, and you couldn’t see them.
. . There was a point where I didn’t know if we were going forwards, backwards, sideways, because you couldn’t
The partially open shoes the Evans group brought for the kids – officially known as “The Shoe That
Grows” and billed as “practical compassion for kids in need” — could expand by up to five sizes with
the use of straps and snaps, so they’re designed to last through several years of foot growth in a warm climate.
As it handed out the shoes, the Torres group also served the kids a warm meal.
“The kids loved that shoe,” Torres said, “but
the hard part was we had to take that shoe with us. You can imagine going in a boat for seven, carrying 300 pairs of shoes
in bags, in airports, in airplanes. This was the hardest trip we’ve taken in 11 years.”
The jacket giveaway at Centennial
Elementary, while emotional, likely won’t be as stressful.
Story on Greeley Tribune site