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Students in the Community: Cleats for Bare Feets

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Soccer, also known as football, is the most played sport in the world and is an integral aspect of many countries’ cultures. However, not everyone who wants to play the “beautiful game” has access to equipment. Thousands of kids in underdeveloped areas do not have gear, forcing them to create makeshift goals and balls out of nearby raw materials. To combat this, seniors Lucas and Pablo Orjales, along with their older brother Andrés, began an organization which collects donated soccer cleats and sends them to kids around the world.

In 2012, the brothers realized that as they outgrew their cleats year after year, the old pairs were kept in a closet, simply taking up space. “We realized that there are people who can use these cleats in a better way,” Pablo Orjales said.

They decided to put them to good use, forming Your Cleats For Bare Feets with the goal of providing cleats to kids in need of shoes and soccer boots. Lucas, Pablo and Andrés Orjales started to collect cleats from Arlington and D.C. players with the help of their schools, Arlington Soccer Association (ASA) and the community.

The brothers first started at an ASA coaches game, where they collected about 150 cleats. “I did not expect it at all! I thought we would only get 10 cleats,” Lucas Orjales said, “but thanks to all the Arlington Travel kids, we managed to have a great start.”

By the end of 2012, a few months after their operation began, they had gathered hundreds of pairs of cleats and shipped them to Mozambique, Argentina and Haiti. To increase exposure and small-sized cleats, the Orjales’ created chapters at Key and Barrett Elementary, establishing donation bins. The donated cleats have gone to schools, soccer programs, teams, a church, a refugee camp and ultimately to players who cannot afford the necessary equipment. Often messages are sent back to Arlington giving thanks for the donations and sending pictures of the shoes in use.

The impact of the nonprofit’s work in seen both on and off the soccer field. One example of the cleats’ significance can be illustrated by the story of Davíd, a seven-year-old from the Dominican Republic, who was not allowed to go to school because he did not own shoes. Still, he walked seven miles a day to school and sat outside, listening, in order to learn. “When he received our cleats, he was finally able to learn and take notes on a desk, not through an open window,” Pablo Orjales said.

Since starting this initiative, the brothers have collected and distributed around one thousand pairs of soccer cleats to countries across the globe, from Botswana to India. The Orjales brothers, with the help from friends, clean the shoes by hand. After putting them in bags and boxes, they contact people who are travelling to areas in need, who help transport the packages without any cost. Many organizations contact Your Cleats for Bare Feets requesting donations, while the Orjales brothers get in touch with other programs about helping them with shoes. “Before the first coaches game, we were already talking to a school called The Happy School in India,” Lucas Orjales said. “They asked for 40 pairs of cleats.”

No matter how many are distributed, the demand for cleats is always constant. While it might not be possible to give shoes to every child in need, the Orjales brothers are determined to help others as much as they can. What started out as giving away old cleats became a movement that has involved the community and touches similar communities across the world, connecting people through their love of soccer. Pablo Orjales said, “Who would’ve thought that used cleats could be so much more than just a pair of shoes?”

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Students in the Community: Cleats for Bare Feets