WCU community walks barefoot in support of Samaritan’s Feet

WCU students walk without shoes but it was too cold for no socks. Photo by Haley Smith.

WCU students walk without shoes but it was too cold for no socks. Photo by Haley Smith.

WCU students, faculty, staff and community members abandoned their shoes and walked the track to get a taste of what 1.5 billion people go through each day without safe footwear.

The Catamount Walkabout took place on Oct. 19 as a component of WCU’s 2015-2017 Africa theme. This student-developed event was designed to raise community awareness of the work being done by Samaritan’s Feet and educate people about the continent of Africa.

“Samaritan’s Feet is an organization out of Charlotte that was started by a guy in his garage about a decade ago,” said Lane Perry, the director of the Center for Service Learning and an organizer of the event.

Samaritan’s Feet has collected 1.5 million pairs of shoes and distributed them to 77 countries, including the United States, according to Perry.

WCU student Beth Winze has worked with Samaritan’s Feet before and said it’s nice that WCU is working with an organization that helps and affects so many people.

Several students said the Catamount Walkabout has been effective in its effort to raise their awareness about Samaritan’s Feet and the Africa theme.

“We need to start at the beginning when it comes to giving people information about Africa,” said Perry. “All social change starts with social awareness. You can’t change something you’re not aware of.”

Winze said it’s important to break stereotypes about Africa by giving people factual information.

Africa walk3. 10/19/15. Photo by Haley Smith

People painted their feet and left footprints with a quote about why Samaritan’s Feet is important to them. Photo by Haley Smith.

The theme seeks to explore the diversity of Africa, as a continent comprised of over 50 countries. The theme will include opportunities for study abroad and service learning through organizations such as Samaritan’s Feet.

“The Africa theme is so diverse and it can apply to so many things. I think that’s the beauty of it,” said Steven LeBeau, a coordinator for the event.

Participants competed to see how many laps they could walk around the track without their shoes. This event also allowed individuals to support one of six Homecoming teams by helping them earn a point towards the Catamount Cup for each lap they walked.

Some participants also carried buckets of water on their heads as they walked around the track. This activity sought to educate people about a common practice in Africa for people to carry containers of water back to their homes by balancing it on their head. According to Liz Skene, an event coordinator, people can carry up to 70 percent of their body weight this way.

“[This event] gets people to think about things in a way they didn’t before,” said LeBeau.

Perry hopes to see more programming concerning Samaritan’s Feet at WCU in the future. The goal is to cash in community awareness to raise resources for the organization.

One student, Brooke Andrade, said the chilly weather conditions and late hour are what kept her from attending the event. Despite the cold weather, coordinators for the event agreed that the turnout was better than expected.