Catholic Memorial Students Leading Footwear Drive for Haiti

Catholic Memorial School seniors Jhovani Vonleh, and West Roxbury's Jack Donovan and Jack Gill, are leading the way to helping Haiti residents.


In some local households, scuffed sneakers often head to the trash.

Yet in Haiti, just more than two years after the earthquake, "there are a lot of children that have to wear the same shoes over and over again," a trend leading to "a lot of foot problems" in the Caribbean nation "that we take for granted in the United States," Sharon resident  says.

"Gangrene can occur. Also, your feet start to grow incorrectly by bound feet, wearing the same small shoes over and over again. Because some people just don't have the money to go out and get new shoes all the time," he says.

"I know it's just a small piece of a larger puzzle, but it's definitely something we want to help cure or fix."

Vonleh and fellow Catholic Memorial School seniors Jack Donovan and Jack Gill of West Roxbury are among those leading a new and gently used footwear drive toward addressing this trend.

The drive is the newest project of the International Youth Partnerships, a nonprofit that Vonleh co-founded with his father, Gabriel. The organization is doing it with Codman Academy. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has cited the project, Gabriel Vonleh says.

The drive ended at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester on March 30 but continues until April 15 at some locations, Gabriel Vonleh says. More details are available at http://iyponline.org/.

Organizers hope to deliver the footwear to Haiti by the end of June, Gabriel Vonleh says.

The drive organizers are inviting the public to donate $5 or more toward shipping.

In the meantime, the donated shoes are being stored at a site provided by the health center, Gabriel Vonleh says.

Canton-based Reebok has donated funds, as well as "a lot of shoes that have been slightly tampered, something that wouldn't make a difference at all, but for consumers, it would," Jhovani says.

"The logo is a different color than they wanted it to be," he explains.

Footwear for all ages is accepted.

"There's got to be someone that can fit them," Jhovani says.

"We go through each and every shoe. If it seems like doesn't work, then we'll set it aside."


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