Dominican Republic (MNN) — When was the last time you walked outside barefoot?
Before you kick off your shoes, take heed: you might pick up a hookworm.
Along with fellow parasites whipworm and Ascaris, hookworms belong to a special disease category called soil-transmitted helminths, or parasitic worms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, hundreds of millions of people worldwide are infected with a soil-transmitted helminth. While they can all be transmitted by eating food that's come in contact with human waste, hookworm infections are usually a result of walking barefoot on contaminated soil.
But impoverished kids often don't have any other choice; they have to go barefoot.
Maria Brugal of Buckner International says that will soon change in the Dominican Republic. From July 31 to August 3, a Shoes for Orphan Souls team will bring hundreds of new shoes to the DR.
"We have scheduled to give away about 600, maybe 700 pairs of shoes," says Brugal. "Last year, we [had] a wonderful group that came, and we gave away around 1000 pairs."
Buckner brought the Shoes for Orphan Souls program to the DR in 2011.
"Since 2011 up to now, we have given away 11,000 pairs of shoes," Brugal states.
For many of the children Buckner serves around the world, new shoes are a constant and urgent need. But Shoes for Orphan Souls trips are about more than footwear and helping the poor.
"It's more than coming and having a picture taken with a poor kid. It's much more than that," Brugal says. "It's for [the kids] to understand that they are important to the Lord."
To that end, Buckner Dominica is holding a VBS for the kids, and trip participants will get to share the Gospel. Interested? You can sign up here.
"It's really an experience that you have to have, you need to have, to see how privileged we are," says Brugal.
Pray that many kids will come to Christ as they experience His love.
"Some of them had never had a pair of sneakers," Brugal shares. "They really feel the love of the Lord and the love of the people that come."