Marines Give Small Shoes, Get Big Smiles

6 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

The Marines of Combat Service Support Detachment-20 helped distribute more than 130 pairs of shoes to children at the New Life Children's Home orphanage here May 5.

The idea to hand out the shoes was hatched by Cmdr. Brad A. Steele, who as the Combined Joint Task Force-Haiti liaison officer to the Haitian National Police, saw the squalor and misery in which many Haitian children lived. Many of the children have no running water or toilets, much less "niceties" like shoes. 

So, Steele painted a picture of this poverty as he spoke with American school children recently. His hope, he said, was to "tug at their heartstrings" and encourage them to donate shoes - something most Americans take for granted. Steele also asked his wife and kids to spread the word and help collect shoes for the children here.

While back in Miami at a conference, he gathered up the collected shoes - four duffel bags full - and brought them here when he returned.

By playing soccer, handing out candy and otherwise interacting with the children, the Marines did more than just deliver shoes, they brightened the lives of the children, said Samuel Montesir, owner of New Life Children's Home.

"For us here, it's been good that you have come," Montesir said. "The children are happy that you have come."

"We're trying to help the population feel better, and we're not asking for anything in return," Steele said, adding that community outreach projects like these help CJTF-Haiti function better. "Any time that we can help somebody it always helps us do our job better."