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Shoe Shining to Survive

Alex (age 11) holding his new pair of shoes

Wednesday's are the most important day of the week for locals in San Sebastian, Guatemala. Each week, people take locally grown vegetables, clothing, shoes and other goods and sell them to the public at the "Plaza" (Market). Others open their restaurants to serve to the masses of people that come from nearby villages to shop. Here in San Sebastian, people skip the trip to the supermarket and wait for Wednesday's to go to the Plaza to do their weekly food shopping.

There's a spot at the Plaza where you'll find a group of shoe shiners. These kids (ages 7-14) come the Plaza every Wednesday to shine shoes, carrying with them a small stool and a bag with their brush and paste. As these kids helped other's shoes look nice and clean, they themselves didn't have a decent pair of shoes to wear.

That day at the Plaza, we thought these kids very much deserved a new pair of shoes. We took all the shoe shining kids (about 20 of them) that day to a shoe vendor and they each got to pick out a brand new pair of sneakers. That is where I met Alex. Alex is 11 years old, and although he would love to attend school, he cannot. His family relies on what he makes from shoe shining to have food at home. At 11 years old, Alex is the main source of income for his family. Although a new pair of shoes wasn't on his wish list this year, we made his wish come true.

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