Conditions are far from ideal in Marbial, Haiti, where parishioners at St. Mary Church have been working through a Twinning Program that connects them to the Ste. Therese parish.
For several years the church members from Milford have been organizing a medical mission to the remote area, and supporting Ste. Therese by raising funds, sending resources and providing aid with a focus on education, clean water, infrastructure and cultural exchanges.
Also, thanks to the mission and a connection with a local business, children and adults in that area of Haiti have some high quality sneakers and sandals to protect their feet from the elements.
There’s a box inside Arciuolo’s Shoes in downtown Milford, and into that box customers and others place sneakers and sandals they no longer need. All are destined for Haiti.
And these aren’t overly used, beat up shoes. There are Sketchers, Reebok, New Balance, Nike and other brand names, all in very good shape.
Matt Arciuolo II said the store has been collecting the shoes about a year. The family attends St. Mary’s Church and knew about the Twinning program, and Arciuolo’s father (Also Matt Arciuolo) decided that they could contribute something they know people need.
Arciuolo’s is a name that means shoes in Milford. The fourth-generation family owned store has been fitting people for shoes in Milford since 1921.
“It’s a very basic need that a lot of people take for granted,” Arciuolo said.
Jamie Bean, an apprentice pedorthist at the store, pointed out that most people in that area of Haiti have no shoes and walk around barefoot. As an apprentice pedorthist, someone trained in the science of healthy feet, Bean knows the importance of shoes that provide protection and support.
Sometimes customers bring in shoe donations when they come to shop. Other times people come in with bags of shoes simply because they’ve heard about the program.
“One time we got a donation of rollerblades,” Bean said. “I don’t know that they’ve got any use for them, but we sent them anyway.”
Arciuolo said the need is for sneakers and sandals in relatively good condition. “These will be their shoes probably for a long time,” he said.
The St. Mary Church Twinning Program came up at a recent Downtown Milford Business Association meeting, and other businesses expressed interest in getting involved, too, Arciuolo’s said. “Because the need is for more than just shoes,” he said.
The St. Mary Parish sends the shoes collected at Arciuolo’s and other items the church has gathered once a year via a container shipment to Ste. Therese.
“We sent 17 boxes in early April from here to the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas in Tennessee, which then arranges for a container ship to bring shipments from all the twinned parishes (there are over 300 twinning relationships) to the port of Port au Prince Haiti, where a representative for Haiti arranges delivery to Ste Therese for us and to all the other twinned parishes for the other US parishes,” said Valerie Carlson, a St. Mary parishioner. “Other items on the container shipment are clothes collected at St. Mary, birthing kits and other necessities.”
As the crow flies, Ste. Therese, with of a population of approximately 60,000 in a highly mountainous region, is less than 20 miles from Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti.
The trip between the two takes about one and a half hours in four wheel drive vehicles, due in part to the lack of direct roads — making it a 60-mile route — and in part due to the state of the roads.
The last 10 miles of the trip take place across a river bed that is only passable in the dry season.