New Shoes Provide Protection and Inspiration for Thousands in Jamaica

COCONUT CREEK, FL  (Oct. 21, 2009) – Painful cuts, bruises, infections and diseases are all part of the reality faced by thousands in Jamaica who do not own a single pair of shoes. Food For The Poor recently responded to the critical shortage and distributed 15,000 pairs of shoes to the country’s poor, while also connecting with them in a meaningful way.

Food For The Poor partnered with two U.S. humanitarian organizations -- Samaritan’s Feet and Gleaning For The World -- to distribute the new athletic shoes. Staff and volunteers from all three organizations helped wash the feet of 300 who received shoes.

The act of washing the feet of the needy was part of Food For The Poor’s mission to distribute donated sneakers to the island’s people. The ritual is modeled after what Jesus did for his disciples as described in John 13:1-17. The process allowed members from all three organizations to interact, and connect with hundreds of Jamaica’s disadvantaged people.

“Food For The Poor has distributed thousands of donated shoes in Jamaica, in El Salvador and other countries. Incorporating the washing of the feet before the actual distribution takes place elevates our work to a whole other level,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “This gesture speaks to humility, service and love for those we serve on a daily basis. We truly sat down and reached out to them.”

The founder of Samaritan’s Feet, Emmanuel Ohonme, also is no stranger to serving the poor through providing shoes. His efforts have gained international attention.

“It’s about touching and impacting the lives of those we serve. It’s about sacrifice and servanthood at its highest level,” Ohonme said. “This trip to Jamaica is to help reduce this number [of people without shoes] and we felt that Food For The Poor would be the most suitable conduit to help us achieve our goal.”

“In Jamaica,” said Karryann Besouza, a 34-year-old receiving a pair of shoes, “we did not know that people out there still cared, and we really appreciate our feet being washed by fellow members, and receiving a pair of shoes because that has never been done before.”

Some of the most compelling images to come out of this distribution show Food For The Poor staff members and volunteers bathing the feet of people receiving new shoes, giving workers a chance to speak face-to-face and pray with the hundreds of souls whose lives have changed thanks to the new soles protecting their feet.

Reverend W. A. Blair, Pastor of New Testament Church of God in St. Catherine where parishioners lined up for shoes, told Food For The Poor about the impact this mission trip would have on his congregation.

“It can never be put into words,” said Blair. “It will be a changed society, a changed church, and a changed family life.”

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. We provide emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, visit

Aimee Vignola
Public Relations Associate
954.427.2222, ext. 6079