Patrick, a 13-year-old Ugandan orphan, had never owned a pair of shoes. Every day he would walk two miles barefoot on bumpy dirt roads to go to school.
Patrick’s father abandoned his family and after some time his mother, too poor to care for him, left Patrick on his grandmother’s doorstep. His grandmother lives in a two-room house without running water or electricity. Thirteen other children in similar circumstances live with her in this house. Her only source of income is selling sponges, so many nights it has been a struggle to feed the children.
We met Patrick through Eddie, a local who started Grow Uganda, a nonprofit to teach vocational skills to refugees and struggling Ugandans.
Eddie found Patrick one day climbing a tall tree in his cabbage patch. Patrick was struggling to reach an unripe jackfruit hanging from a branch. In tattered, dirty clothes and without shoes the boy said to Eddie, “I was hungry and just wanted to have something to put in my stomach, so I could sleep... My name is Patrick.”
After meeting Patrick, Eddie decided to take him under his wing and teach him how to farm cabbages, so he would have a little money to share with his family. Describing Patrick, Eddie said, “He’s a hard-working young man and I believe if he is mentored well, he is going to be a great [help] for his family and his cousins.”
While Luke Goodman, the Director of Operations of Because International, was visiting Uganda he took several pairs of The Shoes That Grow with him. Luke asked Eddie if he knew of any children who would really benefit from having a pair and Eddie said, “Yes, I do. Let’s make a stop at my cabbage patch.”
When they arrived, Eddie stepped out of the van and motioned for Patrick to come over. Patrick jogged over, and Luke pulled out a pair of The Shoe That Grows from his backpack and bent down to help him put them on. “As I helped him adjust the shoes I couldn’t help but notice how weathered his feet had become even though he was so young” Luke recalled. “We had a couple more things to do that evening, so we had to leave pretty quickly after that.”
Once back in the United States, “Many times I found myself thinking about Patrick and his story” Luke said. A couple weeks had passed, and Luke wrote Eddie an email asking some questions about Bednet Buddy. Eddie replied and told Luke the day after he gave Patrick a pair of The Shoes That Grow he went out and collected 20 liters of water in a jerrycan, and then he sold it for 500 shillings ($0.14 USD). He did this, so he could make a phone call to Eddie. Eddie said, “When I answered the phone, I wondered what Patrick needed since Patrick had never called me before.” Patrick had called Eddie only to thank Luke for the shoes because it was the first pair he had ever owned. Since school was starting soon, Patrick was so happy to have a pair of shoes to wear.
After a few months passed, we followed up with Eddie and Patrick to see how things were going. Eddie informed us that Patrick is all set for another school year and just got a new uniform and that “he talks about social studies a lot.” At school he’s even learning a little English but “he’s a shy guy” Eddie chuckled. On holidays from school, “I am teaching him how to make bricks” another vocational skill Patrick can use.