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Shoes for Kibera: A story of connecting, caring and hope as told by PSC Professor Ruth Upton

Students in Professor Ruth Upton’s class along with members of the PSC Serves You Club with assistance from the Student Government Association coordinated a shoe drive this past year for children of the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya.

Students in Professor Ruth Upton’s class, along with members of the PSC Serves You Club and the Student Government Association, coordinated a shoe drive this past year for children of the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Learn how these PSC students’ efforts made a difference in children’s lives halfway around the world.

Sammy, a nurse from Nairobi, delivers shoes to those in need.

WVU Potomac State College students coordinated a shoe drive this past year for children of the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya.  Sammy, a nurse from Nairobi, was thrilled to deliver the shoes to those in need.  

NOTE: Professor Ruth Upton has taught educational classes at West Virginia University Potomac State College for 13 years.  She has served as chair of the Service Committee, co-advisor of the PSC Serves You Club, and as the advisor for education majors and RBA candidates.  As told in her own words, this story reflects how she engages her students to enrich their lives as well as the lives of others.

Shoes for Kibera began more than 20 years ago when my sister, Peggy, went to the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya as a nurse missionary.  She was welcomed by her guide and translator, an 18-year-old man named Sammie. 

Peggy returned several times and their relationship grew into a mother/son relationship.  With Peggy’s help, Sammie was able to attend nursing school and now serves as a nurse and midwife in Nairobi.

Peggy bravely fought ovarian cancer for three years, but when it became clear that she wasn’t going to survive the battle, her daughter arranged for Sammie to come to the United States to see her in 2019.  Sadly, because it took so long to obtain a visa, Sammie was only able to spend time with Peggy during her last week in Hospice, staying close by her side until she passed away.

Sammie’s visa was for another three weeks so my husband and I were fortunate to host him during this time, a blessing beyond words.  I invited Sammy to accompany me to my classrooms for two days.  He showed the classes a video of Kibera and spoke with them about his home. 

After watching the video, my students noticed that most of the children (and adults) had no shoes and were walking in unsanitary conditions.  They, along with the PSC Serves You Club, decided to conduct a shoe drive for the citizens of Kibera. 

After many generous donations, the shoes were boxed up and ready to send on Feb. 20 of this year.  The Student Government Association at Potomac State provided a grant to PSC Serves You to pay for the shipping and the shoes were on their way. 

They were delivered to Sammie within a week; however, due to the corona virus, Nairobi was shut down and the shoes couldn’t be distributed at that time.  The shutdown lifted and on Sept. 22 Sammie was overjoyed to deliver the shoes!

Most of us don’t realize the huge impact a simple pair of shoes can have on someone else’s life, so a big thank you to everyone who donated shoes last year.