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Rotary distributes ‘Shoes That Grow’ to children in Yucatán

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David W. Keelan
Pennsylvania native, relocated to Maryland in 1994. David W. Keelan retired in 2020 and living his best life in Mérida, Yucatán.
Shoes that Grow: A Rotary project in Mérida, Yucatan. Photo: David Keelan

Proper footwear helps to prevent Illness and soil-borne diseases. Knowing this, two local Rotarians Tim Weaver and Dale Deubler along with Marsha Weaver undertook a project to help improve the health of children living in poverty in Yucatán by providing them with unique footwear.

Through Tim’s contacts with Rotary Clubs in the United States, he was able to obtain 24 pairs of donated “Shoes That Grow” from the Healdsburg Rotary Club in Pennsylvania and the Rotary of Napa Valley, California at no cost to the Mérida Rotary (MERC). MERC members expressed gratitude for the generous donation.

Dale, Tim, and Marsha invested over 10 hours of their personal time to obtain and deliver these unique shoes.

Twenty-four pairs of Shoes that Grow were distributed to children in a squatters’ village in the far south of Mérida at Casa de Buen. By quickly combining their efforts they were able to deliver the shoes within a few days of their arrival.

“We fit children with the shoes following a church service at Casa de Buen celebrated by the pastor at this Episcopal Mission, in Dzununcán,” said one of the volunteers. “We explained to everyone that the shoes grow with easy adjustments and that their sturdy design helps to protect feet from soil-borne diseases and injury.”

Shoes that Grow: A Rotary project in Mérida, Yucatan. Photo: David Keelan

Patricia Venegas, a church member, had prepared a list of children’s names in advance of the visit and assisted with the distribution. Patricia will distribute and fit shoes for those children who were unable to attend Sunday’s service.

The team further explained: “The children and parents expressed “thank-you’ in a variety of ways. Many positive comments were made and, at least, one grandmother asked for a pair. Many children commented that the shoes were comfortable when fitted correctly. Fitting each shoe was a bit of a process that we fine-tuned with practice.”

There is a continued need for shoes for the children in Dzunucán as well as other areas in Yucatán. The shoes that were distributed were, unfortunately, too large for children under 7. The benefit of these types of shoes is they can be passed down when outgrown, but for the time being, the younger children are without comfortable fitting shoes. Plans are to collect smaller shoes to distribute to younger children in the future.

The design is ideal for the hot weather of Yucatán, in southeast Mexico, where going barefoot is common in many communities.

A project idea for MERC and other Rotary Clubs, based in Mérida and in the US, could be to provide smaller shoes to the younger members of Dzunucán. The shoes cost US$20 a pair. Information about the shoes is available at Because International.

About MERC

Founded in September 2019, the Merida English Rotary Club is the first English-Language Rotary Club in the state of Yucatán, Mexico.

The membership is comprised of a diverse group of Rotarians from all over the world who have chosen to call Yucatan their home. MERC boasts members from Mexico, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Their goal is to effect positive change in Yucatán with specific sustainable projects that will improve people’s daily lives.

Contact David Keelan for additional information and membership opportunities: david@keelan.com

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