How did Samaritan’s Feet come alive?
The vision for Samaritan’s Feet really began over 30 years ago in Lagos, Nigeria when a missionary from Wisconsin befriended me, a 9-year-old African boy. This “Good Samaritan” gave me a life-changing gift and a message of hope: a pair of shoes. Like so many other children in Africa and around the world, I had never known the comfort and security of owning a pair of tennis shoes.
Spurred on by the inspiration provided by those shoes, I developed a love and skill for basketball. I worked hard and my determination paid off. The University of North Dakota (Lake Region) offered me a full basketball scholarship. I met my wonderful wife, Tracie, pursued my Master’s degree, and went on to work in an executive position at a technology company. We had four beautiful children – Nike, Dele, Yemi, and Wale – and enjoyed life in Charlotte, NC.
However, I never forgot about the plight of kids like me in Africa and around the world, children and families who were still living under the strain of poverty, drug abuse, war, gangs and other criminal activity. I returned with my family for my father’s funeral and that time in Africa cemented our vision. We came home with a renewed focus. Tracie and I left the comfort and securities of our lifestyle to birth the mission of Samaritan’s Feet and haven’t looked back!
Today, we are working to make this vision a reality: Our unrelenting quest to INSPIRE HOPE in the lives of kids and to stop the spread and proliferation of foot-borne diseases and soil transmitted parasites that affects barefoot children has been our mission since day one. We’ve helped provide educational opportunities while awakening DREAMS in the hearts of kids globally through our youth sports and peace and reconciliation programs. Our goal is to help save the lives of impoverished children from unnecessary deaths and amputations by providing shoes with love. To date an estimated 3.5 million children have been helped through the mission of Samaritan’s Feet in over 60 countries across the globe. Through Samaritan’s Feet, we have had the opportunity to continue the legacy of love and hope that I received when I was given my first pair of shoes. As an army of volunteers, we are making a difference in the lives of millions.
Did you expect Samaritans Feet to make such an impact on the world?
Well, we didn’t know what to expect, but we certainly had faith that our efforts would be blessed. We set out with an audacious goal to impact 10 million people around the world, and so far, it’s been an incredible story of grace. We knew that in order for us to be able to accomplish our GOAL, it would require super-natural intervention and help from above. God has been faithful!
Why are shoes for those who need them an issue so close to your heart?
We believe that shoes are so much more than a piece of fashion. To many children and families around the world, they represent safety from disease, the opportunity to attend school, the meeting of a basic need. In a word, hope.
Over 30% of our shoe distribution projects are in the United States. Many of these children in poverty are wearing shoes several sizes too small or wearing shoes that have lost all integrity. Parents must choose between purchasing groceries or purchasing shoes.
Before we place the new pair of shoes of the individual’s feet, we take the time to wash their feet, bandage their wounds, ask questions about their lives, speak words of encouragement and pray for them, if they’d like. Our Shoes of Hope distributions that take place around the world have settled civil disputes and initiated social reconciliation programs.
To us, this is about so much more than shoes. It is changing lives.
How can teenagers get involved?
There are so many ways to get involved! Some ideas include shoe drives (new shoes only), fundraisers of all kinds, and volunteering at shoe distributions. Do you know that for $10 you can help put a pair of shoes on a child anywhere that Samaritan’s Feet is in the world? https://www.samaritansfeet.org/donation/
You can get your coach to coach a game barefoot, go on a domestic or international mission trip, or organize a barefoot run, barefoot dance-a-thon, barefoot pageant, or a barefoot concert. The possibilities are endless. Lo is a great example of using her platform to raise awareness and funds! You can help spread the word on Facebook and other social media platforms. Follow my progress at http://www.facebook.com/Manny.Samaritans.Feet “Manny Ohonme” or http://www.facebook.com/Manny.Ohonme, or on twitter at www.twitter.com/Manny_Ohonme.
What is your best piece of advice when it comes to service and helping others?
We believe that anyone can use their skills and passions to serve those in need. One person can make a real difference in the lives of others. Samaritan’s Feet distribution projects have produced everlasting and life-changing returns on volunteer time. We touch the hearts of children through the physical provision of shoes and hygiene. The shoes become symbols of HOPE that encourage hurting children to pursue their own future with optimism.
What are some long-term goals for Samaritan’s Feet?
We are committed to our goal to impact 10 million people in the next 10 years and we’ll strive to continue growing our impact every year to meet that goal. So far we’ve worked in 62 countries and we are striving to ever increase that number and the number of people who are committed to this cause. Our long-term goal is to someday open a manufacturing plant in Africa to manufacture shoes for kids and create jobs to propel commerce in the regions of the world that we serve. This way, people in these countries will have jobs to be able to take care of their healthcare, food, shelter and other basic necessities of life to further enhance their dignity.
What has been the best part of creating this organization?
We get to be in the business of LIFE TRANSFORMATION and creating a platform for anyone to “PAY it FORWARD.” In a world where people struggle with their purpose and wonder if they can ever make a difference, the story of Samaritan’s Feet clearly shows that one PERSON can make a DIFFERENCE and CHANGE the world. So, whenever the odds are ONE in a MILLION, I challenge you to be the “ONE.”
You can learn more about Samaritan’s Feet, my story, and my amazing journey in my autobiography titled “SOLE PURPOSE.” Learn how God has used my life to spur on a SOCIAL MOVEMENT, not just a non-profit, nor a humanitarian aid organization – but a community of close to 100,000 volunteers and ambassadors who are joining together to make a difference in the lives of over 10 million children in need in every corner of the world.
To order “SOLE PURPOSE” go to http://www.solepurposebook.com/.
To help Manny reach his goal go to https://www.samaritansfeet.org/donation/
Visit us online at https://www.samaritansfeet.org/