Last year Mohammed, my 16-year-old cousin, raised money for homeless kids in New York City. With help from family and friends, he raised over $1,000 and gave brand new sneakers to 5 kids living in shelters. He reached out to me recently and asked if I would spread the word on my blog. Honestly, I was hesitant.
While I contributed to Mohammed's fund last year, I had a hard time understanding why designer sneakers would be his gift of choice. Couldn't he have found something more necessary? Get them shoes, sure, but for the price of one pair of Michael Jordan 9s, he could have bought a backpack, jacket, shoes, and a Christmas dinner for the kid's family. They are homeless! They should be happy with any shoes. I recently asked him to explain a little more about his project. In response, he wrote:
Two years ago, I was homeless. I lived in a shelter in Harlem close to my friends and peers. They didn’t know I was homeless, and I was often made fun of because of the way I looked. I know what it’s like to feel embarrassed about living in a shelter and worrying that someone would notice that I wore the same clothes almost every day. The constant burden in the minds of homeless kids is their outward appearance: Are clothes neat and clean? Do my shoes look new?After reading his letter, I found out about Dasani, the 11-year-old girl whose life as a homeless child is being profiled in this New York Times series this week. It's amazing to see how similar her feelings are to my cousin's. The article states:
Dasani tells herself that brand names don’t matter. She knows such yearnings will go unanswered, so better not to have them. But once in a while, when by some miracle her mother produces a new pair of Michael Jordan sneakers, Dasani finds herself succumbing to the same exercise: She wears them sparingly, and only indoors, hoping to keep them spotless. It never works.Later in the article, Dasani describes how Christmas gifts are scarce: coloring books, a train set, stick-on tattoos, one doll for each girl. When asked what she would do to change the world, she said, "I would give people presents, like kids who don't get presents by parents. I could give them presents with my own money out of my pocket."
I find it inspiring that the first year Mohammed got out of the homeless shelter, he worked hard to do just that. Here's how he describes it:
Last year, with the help from family and friends, I made a few kids stop worrying about this for a while. I gave brand new sneakers to 5 kids. These sneakers were their only Christmas presents and were worth far more than their actual cost. They brought a peace of mind and a great deal of comfort for kids who are trying to focus on more than just their living situation.
I’m trying help kids check off that one Christmas gift they really want and ease some of their burdens for awhile. Please help by giving again. Let’s make a few kids feel better about themselves this year. Your donation will help homeless kids who might not receive any other gifts this holiday season.
Let’s make a difference in their lives, and one day they will do the same for others. Click on this link to donate through PayPal.
Thanks for your help.Good Luck Mohammed! Thank you for giving me a glimpse into your life and sharing your story. Sorry I didn't understand the mission of your sneaker project at first. I get it now. You've taught me so much over the past two years. Love you.
Here's some pictures of shoes and the kids Mohammed helped last year: