Friday, May 22, 2009
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A lawyer, doctor or crime scene investigator
What’s your favorite food?
What is your weird talent?
Singing in Japanese
Who inspires you?
My mother, my father and my grandmother
Jade Stewart’s eyes widen as she describes her letter correspondence with a young girl in Ethiopia who’d received one of her donated pairs of shoes. She hadn’t expected to receive any thank you notes when she began collecting shoes for impoverished children and adults around the world as an 11-year-old volunteer for Share Your Soles, a nonprofit organization. Now the bright eyes of the 13-year-old eighth-grader reveal her surprise and awe for a letter from nearly 7,500 miles away.
Jade’s mom, Denise, suggested she join the Share Your Soles effort after hearing about her daughter’s community service requirement at school. Jade was all for it after viewing one of the organization’s promotional videos with images of barefoot African children.
"I wanted the girls to have something pretty to wear, like the flower petals," Jade says, looking down toward her feet, snug in white slippers with pink designs that match the stitching of her blue jeans and the pale pink braces across her smile. Her polo shirt is her favorite color: jade green.
In the nearly three years she’s volunteered with Share Your Soles, Jade has collected, washed, laced and packed more than 1,000 pairs of shoes—30 to 40 pairs of which she once owned. She even donated allowance money to ship the boxes to poor countries and, in the process, developed a passion for helping children around the world that’s still burning strong. Two pairs of black dress shoes she’s planning to donate sit across from her in the living room.
She has been recognized for her volunteerism as one of Chicago’s Heroes in the ‘Hood, placing second among the awardees who, except for herself, were all high school students.
One of her first donations was her first pair of "heels." She loved those patent leather shoes with the small block heel but decided someone else might need them more.
According to her mom, Jade’s never been apathetic, pleading with her mom to buy things for classmates in need of something.
"We have to help each other survive or else we’re not going to be too successful in the end," Jade says.
She advises kids to think about how happy they are when they receive something new and realize that they can give that same happiness to a child thousands of miles away with an old or outgrown pair of shoes in their closet.