BLAINE, Minn. (WCCO) — For children in the poorest regions of Africa, not only do they walk miles for an education, they do it barefoot. That’s why a father and son in Blaine are putting together a shoe drive they hope will generate hundreds of pairs of shoes and socks for kids in the Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Albert Nyembwe and his family moved to Minnesota 17 years ago. The French teacher and former Boy Scout leader knows firsthand the challenges of educating kids in the world’s poorest countries — getting a child to school shouldn’t be one of them.

Raised and educated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he also was a Boy Scout leader, Nyembwe saw firsthand the difference that a few dollars or boxes of supplies can make.

“When we were in the Congo, we heard about the Americans helping kids in the Congo, through churches and nonprofits. So, now we’re here and ask, why can’t we do the same?” Nyembwe said.

The Minnesota French and Latin teacher formed his own nonprofit, called the Cilongo Foundation. In the tribal language of the Congo, it translates to “ever growing.”

Since forming the foundation in 2001, Nyembwe has operated it out of his Blaine home. In his garage, Nyembwe has several boxes of shoes and socks.

“Twenty-five to 30 pairs of donated shoes. I have socks, too. Ten pairs of socks,” he proudly said.

In the Congo, children typically walk miles to attend school, often times over rough and rocky trails and roads. Albert and his son, Jimmy, are asking for donated shoes of all sizes and styles. They plan on boxing them up and shipping the shoes off to adopted schools in Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“By us doing this shipping of shoes for them it lessens the burden for parents,” said Jimmy. “They don’t have to worry too much and can be happy to receive shoes from here!”

On Saturday, September 29 the Cilongo Foundation will hold a shoe drive. The premise being that any child willing to walk miles to attend school, deserves at the very least, some comfort and protection for their feet.

“You provide a pair of shoes to a kid and this kid will remember it for a lifetime,” Jimmy Nyembwe added.

If you are interested in donating new or slightly used shoes to the cause, it will be held at the east shelter of Aquatore Park in Blaine. The address is 9100 Lincoln Street NE and is near the junction of Highways 10 and 65. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit the Cilongo Foundation’s website.

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