It was a big day on October 20 as Samaritan’s Feet served its 10 millionth recipient in Mitchells Plain, South Africa, the site of its very first shoe distribution years ago. Read below to meet that special recipient.
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He’s your typical 10-year-old boy. He loves soccer. He loves showing off the various medals he’s won. And he loves getting every last drop of ice cream out of his bowl.
But on October 20, something extraordinary happened to Zaiden and his family—he was the 10 millionth person served by Samaritan’s Feet.
This was going to be a huge celebration amongst many volunteers, but prior to that, Zaiden and his grandmother, Geraldine, opened up their home to meet a few Samaritan’s Feet team members to start what will be, a long-term and life-changing relationship.
The sun made the already-bright yellow exterior walls of the small home shine even brighter. Geraldine opened the door and the delicious smell of curry crept out. Inside, the turquoise walls were the backdrop to Geraldine’s artwork, home-made cards from Zaiden, and old family photos. A light breeze and sun ray came through the window in the main room of the home.
Zaiden was quiet at first, intently listening to his new friends and replying to questions in a soft-spoken, yet assured tone. With each new little fact he gave, Zaiden became more comfortable. He pointed out his favorite chapters in “Chicken Soup for the Preteen Soul,” he mentioned how much he loved math, and said he wanted to be a business man when he grew up (he’s not sure exactly what sort of business, but he’s dreaming big).
Zaiden lives in Mitchells Plain within Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa. Mitchells Plain is a large shanty town that goes for miles in every direction. Some homes are made from whatever scraps of metal can be found and others are more permanent structures. There is often gang violence in the area and kids are used as drug mules. Geraldine recalled that it’s not uncommon to hear gunshots during the night. Zaiden told the team he wanted to make Mitchells Plain a safer place.
Mitchells Plain also happens to be the home of the first-ever Samaritan’s Feet shoe distribution. How fitting to return for this historic milestone serving its 10 millionth.
The day had come—over 9.9 million people had been served and it was Zaiden’s turn. It had been cloudy most of the day at Woodville Primary School where around 1,000 students would be served in all. But just before Zaiden entered, the sun came out, highlighting the beautiful moment.
As Zaiden had his feet washed, the volunteers around clapped and cheered, not only celebrating him, but the 9,999,999 who came before him. They were celebrating the young boy in North Carolina who walked into a distribution in leg braces unsure that he would be able to get properly-fitting shoes, but leaving with a proud smile when he did. They were celebrating the refugee in Uganda who was given a word of encouragement as he was served which he held close as he dreamed of furthering his education. They were celebrating a mom in Texas proudly watching her kids receive new shoes after a devastating hurricane destroyed all of their belongings.
In fact, one of those 9,999,999 people celebrated happened to be at that historic distribution. Lloyd, now a police officer in Mitchells Plain, was served in South Africa by Samaritan’s Feet in 2007. He began tearing up as he said “I am one of the 10 million” and described getting a new pair of shoes that were a little too big, but he needed them so we wore them until they fit and then some.
Lloyd’s life changed soon after that moment as he began his journey to becoming a police officer. Zaiden’s life will almost certainly change as well. His family has already received several household items from a local shoe store, plus Zaiden’s current and future school fees will be paid and he has business mentors uplifting and guiding him.
“It touched me. It changed me in a way. These children will understand the reasoning behind that whole thing one day,” said Lloyd. “When I was served I was only sitting there, but now I fully understand.”