AU student uses her passion for Africa to impact lives

Fri, 2010-07-23 08:00 -- univcomm
July 23, 2010

Daily, millions of children in Africa are infected with life threatening illnesses when open sores develop on their feet due to lack of adequate shoes. Lydia Smith, a senior at Anderson University, is passionate about minimizing the problem through Heart for Souls, a project she founded following her Tri-S trip to Uganda, Africa, last summer.

Sample Shoe“The overall goal of Heart for Souls is to increase awareness and gain supporting partners in providing locally made shoes that can be distributed to African children who are barefoot,” said Smith.

Diseases and infections quickly spread through open wounds and the lack of sanitation; many of these diseases can be life threatening. “This project has the potential to provide hope and healing to the soles and hearts of East African children,” said Smith. “The need for proper health provision can start from the feet up.”

One of the main causes of infection is jiggers, which are small pests that embed themselves under the skin, causing severe discomfort. Health care experts believe jiggers cause much more than just severe discomfort. Infestation leads to toenail loss, amputation of the digits and could even cause death due to the high risk of tetanus or gangrene, which is a common secondary infection.

More than 2,000 children in central Africa have dropped out of school because of issues like these. Another serious concern resulting from jiggers is the transmission of HIV/AIDS, one of the leading causes of death in Africa. HIV can be spread through the use of unsanitary needles used to remove the jiggers.

“A pair of shoes in Uganda can be purchased with what Americans consider pocket change,” said Smith. “This project is crucial to the well-being of millions of African children, they need our help.”

Smith plans to use her public relations studies to her benefit, by using her communication and writing skills to contact businesses from around the world to help fund her cause. With the support of family, friends, churches and prospective donors, Smith’s goal is to raise $7,500 to provide 3,000 children with shoes; roughly $2.50 per pair of shoes. This will provide approximately three African villages with adequate shoes.

lydia smithThe project is not only impacting children’s lives but also helping struggling African economies. “I will team up with local businesses in East Africa to implement this project,” said Smith. “This will benefit both the local economy and the sustainability of this project.” Smith plans on using her relationship with local missionaries in Africa to help get the project started among African businesses, many of which have already expressed interest.

Grace Cares Incorporated is a nonprofit Vermont-based 501(c)3 charitable organization, which has teamed up with Heart for Souls by providing a tax exempt opportunity for all supportive donors. Smith is also interning for Grace Care’s public relations department this summer, which she hopes will benefit the promotion of Heart for Souls.

“I have been called to serve the children in East Africa. I don’t know exactly what God has in store for my future, but this project has developed because of God,” said Smith. “I came up with this idea after my return home from Uganda and ever since, things have fallen into place. God brought people into my life that believed in what I stood for.”

While visiting for Tri-S, Smith was able to stay for the summer with her cousin and his family. Caleb and Alair Mitchell are missionaries at New Hope orphanage in Uganda. This gave Smith extra time to understand the needs of the area and volunteer her time.

“This organization gives AU the opportunity to become a part of larger community and could help promote activism, awareness and a connection between the campus and the children of East Africa,” said Smith.

To get involved or to find more information about Heart for Souls visit: www.gracecares.com/projectheartforsouls.html.

–Joseph Matas is a senior from Anderson, Ind., majoring in communication arts and minoring in marketing. Matas is an associate with Fifth Street Communications writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.