In 2009, while Asher Cooley was on the Internet, she came across a video about jiggers and their devastating impact on children in Uganda. Jiggers are a sand flea that burrows deep into the skin, primarily feet and sometimes hands, causing painful sores and secondary infections. Asher was deeply impacted by what she learned and felt a call to action. She knew the solution was simple, providing children with closed toe shoes. She created a sewing pattern for a simple shoe that would later be used to employ tailors and shoemakers in Uganda. One year later she went to Uganda witnessed firsthand the removal of jiggers from the feet of children the same age as her own. It was during that life-changing trip Asher decided to start Sole Hope. The organization was founded in July 2010 and in January 2013 she moved to Uganda where she worked full-time toward achieving Sole Hope’s mission.
As Sole Hope started to grow, Asher realized she could not only help Ugandan children live jigger-free lives, but could also help men and women earn a fair wage by teaching them a trade – how to make shoes. Their new trade has come full circle as they now make shoes that go on the feet of children in need. Asher created a sewing pattern for a shoe made from recycled denim jeans, elastic bands and discarded tires that is now used to employ tailors and shoemakers in Uganda. Sole Hope has also made it possible for volunteers worldwide to assist in the shoemaking process by inviting groups to host “Shoe Parties” where individuals donate jeans, cut out the shoe pattern and send their cutouts to Uganda for the shoemakers to assemble.
Today, Sole Hope has a compound in Jinja, Uganda where they have over 55 full-time Ugandan employees filling positions ranging from security, social workers, tailors, and drivers to caregivers, nurses, educators and physicians.
A jigger starts out so small it is nearly invisible. It burrows into a person’s skin and latches onto blood vessels. Within days the jigger swells to over 1000 times the size it was while continuously laying eggs. Those eggs hatch, mature, and lead to an infestation.
The results of jigger infestation are
Worst of all, due to widespread cultural beliefs, people infested with jiggers are often shunned for the “curse” painfully visible upon their body.
HOW ARE JIGGERS TREATED
BY SOLE HOPE?
Jiggers are treated by slicing open the skin with a sharp razor and removing the egg sack from the host. It’s a quick step repeated hundreds or thousands of times on a person’s body until they are 100% jigger free. Once Jigger free, their empty wounds must heal, and they are fitted for shoes. As their body takes time to recover from the trauma of removal, they rest and are moved into the most impactful part of Sole Hope’s process, EDUCATION. Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? So, why not just quickly remove them at home? Despite it appearing to be “that simple,” in the last several years we discovered there is so much more to jigger removal and long-term care than hosting a clinic and producing shoes. Education is key to their long-term health.
Our Education program tells the real story about jiggers, what they are, how you get them, and how to remain jigger free for life. We address false beliefs commonly taught that jiggers are a “curse,” and show them they do not have live this way. Jiggers may feel like a curse to the person affected, but there is another way!
Though jiggers are a complex problem, the solutions are simple and can change a person’s life forever. Lives are genuinely transformed in short spans of time through these simple steps, hope is restored, and families and communities are put back together again. But even better than before.
LEAVING A LASTING IMPACT
Clean water and removal supplies, post wound care kits, shoes, and education are all required to address and combat this dangerous parasite and its fast infestations. It’s not enough to just remove the problem one time, we have to partner with communities to enhance the quality of life and education, so they are empowered to maintain their jigger free life through resources and knowledge.As long as people live with the belief jiggers are a curse they cannot treat, they will remain captive unnecessarily. This is why education is vital. Almost all affected tell us they did not know the truth about jiggers and how to safely remove them. They thought they were cursed for life.
As long as people cannot provide for themselves or their family, their quality of life will suffer greatly. When families suffer entire communities and economies feel the impact. This is why we actively employ 60+ Ugandans and partner with many patients post-care to actively provide sustainable jobs. When families are positively impacted, communities become stronger.
Though jiggers are a complex problem, the solutions are simple and can change a person’s life forever.