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Couple's shoe drive for Kenyans pays off in days

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A young couple successfully collected thousands of pairs of shoes within four days of launching a campaign to send worn shoes to Kenya recently.

Yang You-ren and his Canadian wife began the shoe drive on Facebook, calling for people to donate their old shoes to the poverty-stricken villagers in Kenya's mountainous Elgon area. After hearing stories about the poor in Africa and one of the continents' many problems, including chigoe fleas, from his father-in-law, a Canadian pastor, Yang mapped out his campaign.

Chigoe fleas, or jiggers, are found in tropical and subtropical areas, causing health issues for shoe-less locals as the fleas breed by burrowing into exposed skin on the feet and laying their eggs. The eggs swell inside the skin and cause irritation; the flea itself would cause dangerous complications including secondary infections, loss of nails and toe deformation. The complications may ultimately result in death.

Yang's Facebook post was shared by tens of thousands with good results; he had to ask the donators to stop giving shoes as there was no more storage space left. People from Japan and Hong Kong also joined in the shoe drive. The donated shoes filled a storehouse Yang had prepared, and will be sent to Kenya by the end of April.

Yang said he would try to send as many pairs of shoes as possible to Kenya via ship; the remaining pairs β€” if any β€” will be donated to local social welfare organizations. The next step would be for Yang to raise the large shipping fee.

β€œLet us use this opportunity from God to learn and appreciate all we own, and allow us to become a blessing to others,” said Yang.

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