Mission 360° - Summer 2013
Ga m b ia Shoes for Kassem The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) supports school children in Gambia and around the world through a valuable new partnership. K assem loves school. As the sixth of eight children, his parents struggle just to feed and clothe him. Kassem would never have been able to afford his school fees if not for the help and motivation of a supportive neighbor. Even though the neighbor moved away, taking his financial support with him, nine-year-old Kassem was determined to stay in school. While it’s a constant struggle for his parents to find the money for books and fees, now that Kassem has a taste of learning it’s impossible to keep him away. “Unlike many other children who often want to skip school, Kassem tries his best to attend,” says Kassem’s teacher, Charles Jatta. “Even if we send him home when he can’t afford his school fees, he sneaks back into class. That’s how dedicated and committed he is.” Like many children in rural Gambia, Kassem walks a long distance to school each day. He makes the trip barefoot. His parents can barely afford food for the family, and after paying Kassem’s school fees, there is nothing left for basic necessities like shoes. “I used to have slippers, but they are full of holes,” says Kassem. “I patched them for a long time, but 16 they’re so old I can’t use them anymore.” ADRA is hard at work in Gambia, focusing on children like Kassem. Literacy rates are below 50 percent, and preventable diseases and parasites are particularly deadly to children. To fight these problems, ADRA recently installed clean water and sanitation facilities at Kassem’s school. A safe water source means lower rates of waterborne diseases, such as typhoid, and leads to increased school attendance. Along with these improvements, ADRA distributed another basic necessity—shoes. Through a partnership with TOMS Shoes, ADRA is distributing sturdy canvas footwear to schoolchildren in Gambia and around the world. TOMS pioneered the One for One® model, giving a pair of new shoes to a child in need with every pair they sell. ADRA is proud to be a TOMS Giving Partner. Since April 2012, ADRA has already distributed TOMS’ shoes to grateful children in 12 countries. Kassem was one of the first. An ADRA worker fits Kassem for his new pair of shoes. Schoolchildren in Tanzania are in their uniforms and ready for class thanks to ADRA and TOMS Shoes.