Local students dedicate summer to help Haiti

Some local students have dedicated their summer to helping one of the poorest countries in the world.

Armed with heart and soul, and shoe soles three students will deliver footwear to Haiti, They are three young adults from different backgrounds uniting to help strangers.

"Just seeing that this is something bigger than myself..that inspired me," said Marquette University student Nikia Johnson.

It's called Project Haiti. For more than 3 months they've collected more than 1,000 pairs of gently used shoes. Most were donated by kids.

"Being a part of this project has opened my eyes to no matter what the differences we may have, people are willing to help," Johnson said.

The effort is the brainchild of Steven Duclair a student at UWM. The 23 year old was born in Haiti and grew up in poverty.

"I used to have no shoes myself when I was living in Haiti. My family was living on less than $2 a day," Duclair said. 

Emily Ruder is a biological sciences major at UWM.

"I can kind of relate, I grew up in Oconomowoc which is a very wealthy area, but I grew up in a trailer park," she said. 

Haiti has been rocked by earthquakes, hurricanes, and a weak economy. More than 60 percent live below the poverty line. The 2010 earthquake killed more than 200,000 people. 

"They happen to be born in a place that is just unlucky. Really unlucky and that's just not fair," Ruder said.

Duclair speaks at schools, churches and organizations raising donations and awareness. 

"I let the kids know this was an opportunity to be a blessing to somebody else," he said. 

Johnson, a biological sciences major at Marquette University, said,"All the love and support that we've been getting from the community, being able to get the shoes to the kids is really going to be symbolic.

The students have raised more than $4,000. While in Haiti they will also volunteer with "Clean Water for Haiti" to help build a water filtration system. 

Perhaps a message on a shirt Duclair wore for the interview conveyed the true benevolence of their quest. 

In bold print was the slogan, "What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others is immortal."

The students will leave for Haiti at the end of the month. 

To learn how you can help, click here. 
 

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