RUMSON – Brother and sister duo, Akash and Priya Verma, started Immortal Soles, a nonprofit organization that brings used athletic footwear to needy children in Haiti.
The two Ranney School students, Akash, a freshman, and Priya, a seventh grader, founded Immortal Soles in 2013 after spending a year living in New Delhi, India, teaching impoverished children in the slums the kinds of children who their charity now helps how to play the universal game of tennis.
Akash and Priya were so moved by the Indian children’s enthusiasm for sport, their athletic ability and the poor conditions they live in, that they felt that they wanted to help. They couldn’t bear to watch these good kids, some of whom were their own age, playing tennis barefoot or in broken sandals all in effort to keep busy and off the streets of India. All the while in America, children in affluent communities throw out a pair of cleats after their sports season is over and purchase new running shoes every year.
“It was really sad to see them without shoes,” Akash said. “We take stuff like that for granted so often here, and it was so hard to see them not have the same opportunities as us.”
They decided they needed to bridge this gap, which pushed them to start Immortal Soles when they returned to U.S.
“Part of the bigger goal of Immortal Soles is to help the kids learn values taught through sports,” Akash said. “The shoes we send them help them get better, which teaches them that even though they’re in poverty they can make something of themselves.”
The brother and sister originally planned for Immortal Soles to send shoes to India, to help the children that Akash and Priya witnessed begging in the streets on their walk to school each day, but India puts high duties on goods entering the country and that made it too expensive. Instead, Immortal Soles partnered with Goals Haiti, a nonprofit organization that teaches soccer to children in Haiti in hopes to better the children’s lives and teach them valuable skills.
“Goals Haiti works so well with us, and they have such a huge need for what we can give them,” Monica Logani, Akash’s and Priya’s mother, said.
After a child in Haiti receives a pair of cleats, a volunteer at Goals Haiti takes a photo of him or her with his or her new footwear. Goals Haiti sends these images to Immortal Soles, which posts the photo on its Instagram account (@immortalsoles) and tags the person from America that donated the shoes to show them who they are helping.
“They can see how they are affecting the kids with their simple, little donation. They’re amazed when they see the kid’s smile in the photo because they probably didn’t realize that they’d actually be doing so much,” Akash said. “It really makes a difference, to the kids in Haiti and the kids here.”
In 2014, the first year that Immortal Soles held shoe drives, it collected about 200 pairs of shoes to send to Haiti. The Ranney School, Rumson Fair Haven High School and the Rumson Recreational Program all contributed to this number.
This year, Immortal Soles plans to add CBA to the list of schools where they will hold drives and hopes to more than double the number of pairs of shoes to send to Haiti. “It’s been getting bigger and bigger, better and better, but the ultimate goal is to get as many kids involved as possible in the future,” Akash said.
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