Vanderbilt students to visit Cuba for Soles4Souls

Posted: 05-Aug-15 18:38

Ten Vanderbilt students travelled to Cuba and spent the week volunteering to help out with Nashville-based charity Soles4Souls.

Vanderbilt students to visit Cuba for Soles4Souls

Ten students from Vanderbilt University took a trip to Cuba to volunteer on behalf of the charity Soles4Souls, based in Nashville, USA. While they were visiting the Caribbean nation, they distributed more than 500 pairs of shoes to Cuban children. It was also an opportunity for the students to experience Cuba and learn about the culture and the country as well as its relationship with the USA.

The trip was timed to coincide with the reopening of the United States Embassy in Havana. The embassy had been closed for 50 years and has only recently been opened as trade and travel restrictions are loosened between the USA and Cuba. The students had a unique opportunity to take part in a piece of history. The embassies were opened on Monday, July 20 – a day which officially marked the beginning of full diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba for the first time since 1961.

This is the third time that Vanderbilt has partnered with Soles4Souls for an international service trip. The other trips have been to Costa Rica and Tanzania in 2014. Students from several school sports teams travelled to Cuba, including lacrosse, swimming, women's tennis, women's golf and bowling. As well as distributing shoes during the trip, the students also visited historical sites, educational forums and enjoyed museum tours.

Many people living in poverty in Cuba don't have access to a basic necessity – a good pair of shoes. Having shoes to wear is important and without them children are not able to attend school, adults are unable to work and simply walking around becomes unbearable. Walking is the primary mode of transportation in many developing nations, but millions of people are exposed to hazards and unsanitary conditions on their bare feet. This increases their risk of diseases such as threadworm, hookworm and more.

A good pair of shoes can make a big difference in a community. Soles4Souls takes donations of gently used shoes and gives them away to impoverished communities that need them. They have a micro-enterprise model that allows entrepreneurs to start small businesses and lift their families out of poverty. To date they have distributed more than 22 million pairs of shoes in 127 different countries.


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