When 12-year-old Ashlyn Fischer first presented her idea of a shoe drive for underprivileged children in Haiti to the students of Valor Christian Academy in Redondo Beach, she was barefoot.
“We were standing on the carpet, so it wasn’t like the sharp rocks they have to stand on in Haiti, but it just kind of added to what we were trying to say,” explained the local 7th grader, who is vice president of her school’s honor council.
Ashlyn had created a designated bin, called ‘the Sneaker Keeper’ and was asking students at her K-8 private school to donate their gently used shoes.
The shoes would then be sent to Haitian children through the philanthropic program “Helping Hands 2 Haiti,” which is supported by international nonprofit the Links, Inc.
Fast-forward eight months to the end of the school year; Ashlyn’s ‘Sneaker-Keeper’ has garnered more than 1,000 donated pairs of shoes—a number she admits is surprising.
“I was not expecting that there was going to be so many shoes. I am almost overwhelmed about the whole thing, but really happy and grateful for all the shoes that have been donated,” she said.
Ashlyn hopes her efforts—which included campaigning with signs promoting the shoe drive throughout the year—will have a massive impact on the children of Les Cayes, Haiti. The shoes will be dispersed to the community and a local school, according to members of the Links, Inc.
“Shoes are so important for the people of Haiti because transportation is limited so walking is the mode of transportation. The majority is done on broken rock and gravel. Many of the students barely have a sole on the bottom of the shoe, which causes cuts and blisters on the bottom of their feet,” explained Melissa Robinson-Chavez, an event chair for the Harbor Area Chapter of Links, Inc.
Robinson-Chavez, a parent to a third-grader at Valor Christian, helped to connect Ashlyn with the organization for the shoe drive.
“We have never collected this many shoes in such a short period of time!” Robinson-Chavez added. “What she has done will keep these children’s feet from bleeding and getting cut so they may run and play for years!”
Ashlyn said she loves knowing that she has made children happy with something as simple as a pair of shoes.
“It’s really important to think about stuff like this, even for somebody at my age, because it can be extremely impactful to other people who don’t have as much,” she continued. “We take a lot of things for granted when there’s other kids who would love to have shoes and we don’t even really think about that we’re wearing shoes every day.”