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April 9th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune
First Lutheran School Monrovia students are responding with generous hearts after student council members began a new outreach program during the months of March and April, to children in Afghanistan. The program was initiated by the First Lutheran Student Council after hearing about a conversation that took place between Sergeant Victor Martinez stationed in Afghanistan and some children he encountered.
Victor Martinez is serving with the US Army in Afghanistan, in order to train the Afghan National Army. He regularly visits the base to teach classes and interact with soldiers. Families are not provided military housing and children live as squatters finding places to sleep and live around the remote base. Two children approached Sergeant Martinez through a translator and asked a profound question. “Is it true,” they asked, “that every child in America has a pair of shoes?”
“Why yes,” he replied. “In fact many children have four or five pairs.” The children were amazed. Sergeant Martinez then looked down at the children’s feet. One child had shoes so worn that the soles were paper thin. The other wore a pair of broken flip flops. The weather had reached 33 degrees that day with a low of 12 degrees.
This broke Martinez’s heart. He reached into his pocket and only had $5 American. He told them to go to a vendor tent on the base and find what kind of shoes they could get for the money. The boys returned excited. They were both wearing plastic slip on shoes. It appeared to be one of the best gifts they could have received.
Upon hearing this story First Lutheran students decided that they could make a difference. They decided to bring in new pairs of shoes to send to Afghanistan. But the idea and the dream did not stop there. Through letter writing and contact with the community, they established a goal of sending 500 pairs of shoes. Other students suggested that the school send blankets, socks, and toys as well.
This effort will be ongoing through the month of March and April. To date over 150 pairs of shoes have been donated, so students are well on their way to achieving their goal.
“One student’s mother came and asked what was going on with shoes,” said Debbie Martinez, the school’s principal. “I told her the story about the children. She then told me her son came home, said he didn’t need his allowance money for awhile and asked if they could buy shoes with it instead.”
“These efforts help change our students’ world view. They become aware of their blessings and learn to be leaders in reaching out in compassion.”
Servant projects are part of First Lutheran’s learning experience. Projects in the last year have included working at the Foothill Unity Center, making Christmas cards and gifts for the elderly who are not able to get out of their house, writing letters to American soldiers, supporting the American Heart Association, and raising funds for hurricane and fire victims. Currently they are also sponsoring a child in Guatemala through World Vision, and purchasing farm animals such as sheep and chickens for families in other countries to provide food and an income source.
If you would like to contribute to First Lutheran’s Shoes for Afghanistan Children Project, you may contact Debbie Martinez at the school office at 626-357-3543. The students are gathering new shoes in all children’s and young adult sizes. You may also bring socks, gently used blankets, and small toys. Financial donations are also welcomed to cover the cost of shipping or to purchase additional shoes. All the shoes and other goods will be distributed to families directly through the US Army troops stationed with Sergeant Victor Martinez.