St. Francis student shoes the shoeless

Photo By: Courtesy of Shawn Esmaili
Photo Courtesy Of Shawn EsmailiSt. Francis High School student Shawn Esmaili, center, collects shoes to donate to those in need, such as these Haitian orphans.

St. Francis High School junior Shawn Esmaili discovered his compassion for those less fortunate when he visited an orphanage in Asia when he was 12 years old.

After speaking with one of the orphans, “I sensed the vision he had. I sensed he wanted to be someone really successful and he was really gifted,” Esmaili said. “I realized just how much I had and how little he had.”

Since then, Esmaili has dedicated himself to providing resources to those in need of assistance and encourages his peers to do the same. He manages his own non-profit organization, Youth Against Poverty.

Esmaili worked in Haiti last summer, helping an orphanage collect shoes for its children. Through chance connections, he learned of K2 Adventures Foundation and its goal of providing shoes for orphans in Mwereni Integrated School for the Blind in Moshi, Tanzania. Because of the composition of the soil, the children suffer from foot fungus, which causes their feet to swell. The simple solution of wearing shoes could prevent the problem, but there were no shoes to wear – until Esmaili stepped in.

His parents work in the shoe industry and connected him with representatives from Adidas, Converse, Reebok, Puma and Vans. He convinced the sport-shoe companies to donate a total of 700 pairs of shoes for the 600 blind orphans.

K2 Adventures Foundation recently presented its Humanitarian Award to Esmaili for his work in securing the shoes for the African children.

“I want to help those in need,” he said. “I don’t want to take things for granted.”

Esmaili currently partners with K2 Adventures Foundation and Global Family Philanthropy, also non-profit groups, to provide resources where lacking around the world. In addition to his work with other organizations, he runs a pop-up shop in Arizona selling shoes to raise money for the medical facility in Haiti, which he visited with the Global Family Philanthropy. Shoe sales have already realized nearly $22,000 of his goal of $25,000 to purchase medical supplies for the Haitian facility.

Because of the success of the pop-up shop, Esmaili is looking for a location in Los Altos to run a similar shop to raise funds for a future philanthropic goal.

He is also committed to sparking the joy of philanthropy in other local students.

“We are the next generation and we can make a difference,” he said. “I want to change others’ outlook on life and how they give to others. I know it isn’t easy to convince people my age to go to Haiti, but I want them to be informed and spread awareness.”

Youth Against Poverty’s mission is to link teens with established groups committed to helping the poor and disadvantaged. He said his passion to serve others runs deep and he would like to make that his life’s focus.

“I want to study anything in college that can help me help more people in need,” Esmaili said.

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