North Delta girl collects shoes for orphans in Africa

Eight-year-old Rebecca Stewart is this week's "Hidden Hero," a regular feature in the Now newspaper

Delta's Rebecca Stewart has collected 256 pairs of shoes for orphans in Africa. The eight-year-old girl wanted to help the children after hearing about them in church.

DELTA — This week’s Hidden Hero has got real sole.

Eight-year-old Rebecca Stewart of North Delta has collected 256 pairs of shoes, with help from friends, family and the congregation of Crossroads United Church, for Mama Orphans Children’s Home in Kenya, Africa.

Her church sponsors the orphanage, located in Busia, a small town near Uganda’s border. Monica Oduor (aka “Mama”) started it out of her own home there in 1996 when she took in six young boys who were living on the streets after their parents died from AIDS. Today the orphanage houses more than 100 orphans, from newborns to age 18.

After hearing about their plight through her church, Rebecca decided she wanted to help the orphans and started a “shoe campaign” to collect new and “gently used” shoes for them.

“I heard that they can’t go to school without shoes,” she explained. “That would probably be hard because you might step on a lot of sharp things.”

Most of the shoes were donated by friends and church members. Rebecca’s campaign ended Sunday, with her sitting on top of a small mountain of shoes piled up inside the church.

“Mom (Heather) and dad are very proud, and so is her big sister Mary,” said her dad, Scott Stewart. “We are very proud of Rebecca and want to share our story of how an eight-year-old girl in North Delta, through having a simple idea, can inspire others to donate such a necessity to others on the other side of the world. This shows anyone can make a difference to help those in need — whether down the street or across the globe.

“We thought we would share our story so it could inspire other children and adults to be aware that anyone can make a difference to make the world a better place,” Scott said. “Rebecca is our ‘Hidden Hero.'”

Her sister Mary, 12, said she helped “a little bit but she (Rebecca) mostly does it. I think she’s helping a lot of people because it’s really hard to get the education you need and if people can’t go to school just because they don’t have shoes to wear, then that’s really hard.”

When Rebecca’s not busy trying to save the world, she attends Grade 3.

“At school I like to do gym a lot and when I’m outside I like to play grounders on the playground,” she said. “Someone’s it, and they close their eyes but they can peek a little. They’re on the playground and they try to tag people.”

When she’s not doing gymnastics, or playing grounders, she said, she enjoys pursuing her shoe project “because it helps a lot of kids that don’t have shoes or that don’t have a lot of things.”

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