CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 November 2017

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Shoes galore

HONG KONG (SE): An appeal made in Hong Kong for secondhand shoes for the poor of his diocese in Cameroon by the director of Caritas in the rural district of Bamenda, received such an overwhelming response that Father Njokikang Paul Fru was left scrambling to collect enough money to enable him to get them transported back home.
 
What began as a simple drive by the Caritas Community Centre and the Hong Kong Lasallian Family to collect around 3,000 pairs in good condition, developed into an avalanche, with the 3,000 he was looking for plus another 3,000 coming in on the first day.
 
He was left with the prospect of organising transport for them before November 3, when he was scheduled to leave Hong Kong. His next challenge will be taking delivery of them in Cameroon and arranging transport to his remote diocese, followed by the arduous task of distributing them.
 
But the well shod priest with a jolly laugh and an infectious smile, hopes that it can all be done in time for Christmas, as he believes that a pair of shoes will make a real game-changer gift in the lives of the bulk of the people that he serves in his ministry.
 
He told the Sunday Examiner that the vast majority of people in his rural diocese do not have shoes and this causes many problems from cuts becoming infected and a variety of skin diseases which come from contaminated or poisonous materials they come into contact with.
 
He explained that fleas are a big problem and that people walking barefooted in the farming areas easily get bitten.
 
He pointed out that the bites, apart from itching, often become infected and some of people have had to have their legs amputated due to serious infection.
 
Bill Lay Yan-piau, a senior social work supervisor at Caritas Community Centre-Kowloon, told the Kung Kao Po on October 24 that the donation campaign shows the enthusiasm of Hong Kong people to support others in the spirit of neighbourly solidarity.
 
Lay said he also believes that it is a good opportunity for the Caritas groups in the two regions to set up a cooperative relationship with each other, as shoes wear out and eventually there is the problem of replacing them.
 
He said that as the number of shoes collected far exceeded the target, large donations of multiple pairs had to be stopped and people were asked for money instead to help defray the transportation costs.
 
Father Fru said that 55 per cent of the people in Cameroon really are quite poor and 48 per cent of them live below the poverty line.
 
He explained that the only stipulation he had about the shoes was that they be in good condition, as any type from heavy duty walking boots to thongs can have their uses.
 
Father Fru said he is not worried about that the resources donated by other countries affecting the local economy, as there is not really much in the way of leather or textile production in Cameroon.
 
He explained that although the people are rich in solidarity with each other and are capable of building an excellent community spirit, they are not rich in material goods and since there is very little money to buy what they cannot produce themselves, they lack what are really necessities in their lives.
 
His current project is solely targeting the poor, but his long-term challenge is to instill the same spirit of mutual help into local business people that he has found in Hong Kong.
 
Currently, whenever his people need help, the only avenue open to him is looking overseas for help.

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