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Kids' mission is to raise money for shoes '4 souls'

Deer Creek fifth-graders end school year on a very high note
by: Barbara Sherman GRAND POETRY SLAM – Students in Aimee Havens' fifth-grade class at Deer Creek Elementary perform a dance during a rehearsal for their June 7 presentations that were part of a fundraising effort for Soles4Souls.

The plight of 1-plus billion people around the world who have no shoes to wear and are susceptible to disease and infections struck a chord with students in Aimee Havens' fifth-grade class at Deer Creek Elementary this spring.

Every year Havens chooses a charity to educate her students about, and they fundraise for the cause.

This year's fundraiser benefitted Soles4Souls, which provides shoes to needy people around the world.

The fundraiser was multi-faceted: For an all-school assembly plus an evening performance for parents June 7, Havens' students put together a PowerPoint presentation about basic human rights that everyone should have, created a "poetry slam" in which they read poems they wrote about human rights that were judged by high school students, and performed an upbeat dance to bring the powerful words to life.

Both performances were bilingual (in English and Spanish), and at the evening performance, people could donate money online to Soles4Souls through four computers set up in the multi-purpose room, or they could donate cash or purchase dessert from the students.

In addition, people can still donate at www.soles4soulsfundraising.org/havensclass.

The students learned that every dollar donated is used to purchase one pair of shoes for someone in a developing country around the world.

"Many serious health conditions can be absorbed through the feet, even through the toughest soles," the Soles4Souls website states. "As the skin on the bottom of the feet toughens and thickens, large cracks can form, which allow parasitic infections such as hookworm and threadworm to penetrate the skin.

"In addition, constant cuts and scrapes to the feet and ankles frequently become infected, and may of these infections can lead to ulcers and worse…

"These injuries are almost never treated and can lead to serious infections, amputations and even death. With the number of children living in abject poverty and therefore surviving at a scavenger's existence, the feet are at tremendous risk as the child hunts for food or household items in garbage dumps, abandoned housing/construction areas or while crossing through open sewer trenches and contaminated areas."

In addition to learning about the importance of wearing shoes, Havens' students learned the real meaning of terms like peace, safety, equality, respect, privacy and the freedom to travel, get a job and go to school by studying the book, "Every Human Has Rights."

Following a dress rehearsal before the June 7 performances, six students hung around afterwards to talk about the experience and what they learned from it.

"Ms. Havens showed us a video of a poetry slam so we could get the idea how to do it," said Brenda Perez-Lopez, and Hector Garcia added, "We are the first elementary class to do one."

Cody James explained that a poetry slam is a combination of technology, music and poetry.

"We incorporated other stuff like dancing," Kylene Harold said. "We wanted to help people who are suffering and don't even have basic human rights - this is the theme of Soles4Souls.

"Every kid in the class was responsible for one or two slides and found photos to go with phrases from a book called the 'Every Human Has Rights.'"

Ella Gilbertson added, "No one could use the same photo," and Brenda added, "We could trade."

Cody explained that each student wrote his or her own poem based on one of the words in the video.

"Everyone got a poetry notebook to write in," said Makenna Bailey.

According to Kylene, "some kids wrote only one poem and liked it, and others went through 20."

Ella added, "Then we decided on the music."

The kids said they were stunned to learn the facts about poor children around the world.

"It's sad, and people walk 3 miles just to get water," Ella said

The kids all agreed that their performance, which took over a month to prepare, was a lot of work.

"Ms. Havens said that she would finally be able to sleep after this," said Ella, explaining that "300 million children around the world don't have shoes."

"I just thought they would get their feet cut," she added. "I didn't realize that you could get a disease."

The students said that they had set a goal of $500 and were already about 20 percent there before the performances on June 7. After the performances, their total reached $525.

"We're excited about doing this project," Ella said, and Brenda added, "We've learned a lot about human rights."

Havens explained, "Studying human rights gave my students an awareness of race, language, culture and socio-economic differences. While acknowledging those differences, they learned how to honor them.

"When taught and given an opportunity, kids' empathetic nature can be much bigger than what we can even imagine. I'm extremely proud of their high level of maturity and thinking during this project."