Valley Citizen Moved to Help Desperate West African Country

Burkino Faso, West Africa
Map of Burkina Faso, West Africa

Burkina Faso, West Africa

  • 3rd poorest country in the world

  • Avg. life expectancy age = 17

  • Children aged zero to 14 comprise 45 percent of population

BRAWLEY - One person in the Imperial Valley is doing something to bring relief to Burkina Faso – and he wants your help.

Keith Smith, long-time Brawley Union High School teacher and wrestling coach, is partnering with Power to Become (p2b), a not-for-profit organization.  Smith is gathering used, wearable shoes now until May 26, to send to the inhabitants of Burkina Faso.

Photo by: p2b websit
Photo by: p2b

Burkina Faso gained independence in 1960, but is crippled by a 29 percent literacy rate and extreme poverty, p2b says. The country deals with child labor as 38 percent of the youth is forced into work, according to p2b. With life-expectancy ending at age 17, this means children five to 14 are the country’s labor force.

As the newly appointed El Centro Imperial Valley Stake President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), Smith was contacted to partner with p2b, an organization based out of Southern California that deals extensively with Burkina Faso.

Three members of the LDS (Mormon) church started this group, with the intent “to sustain, improve and become better through our Savior, Jesus Christ,” their website claims. Although the organization holds strong religious roots, the LDS Church does not sponsor it.

“The organization has been going to the country and doing missionary work there,” Smith said. “Their goal on one of their trips was to feed everyone in the village.”

The organization journeyed to Africa December 25, 2014 through January 8, 2015, braving a travel alert issued by the U.S. Department of State.

In an October travel alert, the State Department recommended that U.S. citizens defer all “non-essential” travel to the country, until the alert expired on January 29, 2015.

The organization is sending a team back to the country this June and this time they are taking shoes.

Smith, moved by the work the organization is doing, decided to rally the Valley together to help.

“When I looked at the information they provided,” Smith said, “and the fact that the average age for people – the whole country – is 17… I thought – this is something we can get behind.”

“They are almost all children,” he said.

Power to Become is asking for the donation of shoes, “in wearable condition,” said Smith. “Just tie the shoes together, put them in a plastic bag, and bring them by.”

Shoes can be dropped off at any time, at any of the LDS churches throughout the Valley.

Time is of the essence, as Smith has asked for all the shoes to be delivered by May 26. Organizers from p2b will pick up the shoes shortly after.

“This is something we can all get behind,” Smith said. “It crosses all religious borders. Everybody’s got a closet full of unused shoes,” he said.

For more information, please contact Keith Smith at 760-562-3348 or Jacinto “Jay” Jiminez at 760-791-2499.


Drop off locations:Shoes for Burkina Faso flyer by Keith Smith

Brawley: 480 W. D. St. Brawley, CA 92227

El Centro: 1280 S. 8th St. El Centro, CA 92243

Calexico: 741 Andrade Ave. Calexico, CA 92231

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