UWM student, native of Haiti leads effort to provide shoes for children in need: ‘What we do for others is immortal’

MILWAUKEE -- A pair of shoes may seem like a simple thing, but it's a luxury millions of children worldwide don't have. This summer, a small group of students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will travel to Haiti in an effort to help.

Steven Duclair

Living in poverty is something Steven Duclair knows all too well.

"Basically we were living on less than $2 a day," said Duclair.

Born in Haiti, Duclair moved to the United States when he was 13 years old. Now, he studies interpersonal communications at UWM.

"I find out that there's 300 million kids around the world with no shoes to wear," said Duclair.

That number inspired him to act -- spearheading "Project Haiti, Cite Soleil" (city of sun). In August, Duclair and three other Milwaukee area students will set foot in his birthplace, delivering more than 1,000 pairs of shoes to impoverished children.

Project Haiti, Cite Soleil

"It will be more of a blessing for me, just to be able to see the smile on the kids face," said Duclair.

Nikia Johnson

"It's a feeling that you can't describe. When you help someone, how that makes you feel. I'm going to be overwhelmed with joy," said Nikia Johnson, Project Haiti resource manager and Marquette University student.

Duclair said that when he first launched the project, donations came in slowly. He set out into the community to ask for help.  Duclair said Plymouth Church, where some of the shoes are being stored, was one of the first to offer support. He said he also encourages children in the Milwaukee area to get involved by speaking at various schools.

"You can live forever by living for others, and this whole project... it's about living for others and being kind, and showing empathy and love and compassion," said Duclair.

During their trip, "Project Haiti" volunteers will also provide clean drinking water to children and families by building water filtration systems.

"Something that we take for granted every day," said Johnson.

The four students (three from UWM and one from Marquette) taking part in the trip will be in Haiti for 10 days, improving lives one step at a time.

Project Haiti, Cite Soleil

Project Haiti, Cite Soleil

"What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others is immortal. That's just the way I look at life," said Duclair.

"Project Haiti, Cite Soleil" still needs funding to support its mission. Money that is donated will pay to ship the shoes to Haiti and will cover the cost of water filtration systems. Additionally, students are planning to purchase food and medicine for Haitian families in need.

CLICK HERE to learn more about this effort, or to make a donation.