Ten-year-old Zaiden Williams, from Portland, was stunned when he heard he was nominated to receive the 10th million pair of shoes from Samaritan’s Feet South Africa (SFSA).
SFSA hit their milestone of giving away 10 million pairs of shoes across the world. On Friday October 20, the non-profit organisation, with Samaritan’s Feet International (SFI) got to share the milestone with Woodville Primary School and Zaiden, who attends Duneside Primary School pupil.
His grandmother, Geraldine Williams, 74, said Zaiden was nominated for the handover.
“It was unexpected for the both of us. I didn’t think something like this would happen to Zaiden. He received biodegradable shoes, once worn out it can be used as compost for gardening. Everything they did for him was really special and appreciated,” she said.
Ms Williams has raised Zaiden and his sister, Abigail Williams, 8, since they were born as his parents were struggled with substance abuse but have now recovered from it.
The young aspiring businessman was thankful for the handover.
Samaritan’s Feet co-founders Manny Ohonme and Tracie Ohonme said not only do they provide each child with a brand new pair of shoes, but they aim to offer hope through one-on-one foot washing and time spent in prayer and conversation.
The global organisation started in 2003 at the F.R.O.G centre, in Woodlands, adjacent to the school where they gave away 1000 pairs of shoes.
Director of the F.R.O.G centre, John Pascoe, who also nominated Zaiden through the long-standing partnership with SFSA, said 20 years later they never thought this is how far the vision would come. “God has helped them. I’m thrilled to still be a part of it all, well done.”
Mr Ohonme said: “Every child in the world deserves dignity. Washing people’s feet is a symbolic gesture to remind them that they are special and great. They are the future. One day when they get to their destination, they won’t forget this day.”
They left the corporate world to achieve this organisation, he said.
He remembers being at the F.R.O.G centre in 2003, when shoes ran out, the line of people were snaking in the streets. “That’s when we realised the need was big and we needed to do something. Since then we are at 10 million, back where it all started, in Mitchell’s Plain,” he said.
Ms Ohonme said Mitchell’s Plain feels like home. “We impacted 10 million lives. Travelling on the bus with our volunteers of over 60 people, it felt like we’re returning home. Helping children, we realised we reached a goal,” she said.
Daughter of the co-founders and volunteer, Nike Ohonme, said serving people is special to her. “Foot washing is so humbling, sitting across someone you don’t know. Both of you need to converse and get to know each other which is a special moment,” she said.
Woodville Primary principal, William Page, said the pupils had sparkles in their eyes when they learned why the organisation came out. “We are thankful to SFSA and everyone coming out to make our pupils feel special and enjoy their shoes.”
Woodville Primary School Grade R teacher Marlene Hess said she’s glad that they received this as some pupils don’t usually get new shoes. “This warms our hearts and we’re grateful for it.”
Samaritan’s Feet South Africa aims to reach 24 000 beneficiaries in 2024.