Former Professor Gives Back to Peru Through Sock Project

When Central MIchigan University’s Kathleen Schmittler traveled over 3,000 miles to Lima, Peru, she didn’t think she would be as affected as she was. After visiting a shantytown in Lima and seeing how people lived with little resources, Schmittler decided it was up to her to make a difference in the town.

Her first thought to help the shantytown: collecting socks.

Grand Central sat down to see exactly why Schmittler gathered socks for the small town and how doing so impacted her as a person.

Why were you visiting Peru?

Well last summer, in 2014, I went to Peru and I had a couple days in Lima so I booked a couple of tours and one of them was in a shanty town. I really fell in love with the people. When I took the tour for the first time they told me that they have a lot of hardships, but they don’t see them as hardships they just see them as challenges. They were so grateful. They don’t think of themselves as extremely poor they just work with what they have. I just decided I had to do something for them.

Out of all the products you could collect, why socks?

Peru is the third poorest country in South America. Since I already did socks for the Christmas outreach program in 2013, this year I thought I would double my goal [of how many socks raised] to 500 and give half to Christmas outreach and half to Peru. I ended up collecting 965 pairs of socks. I spent the night in the shantytown with a family and it was for anybody – infants, kids, adults, grandparents. We passed them out at a kindergarten meeting that I went to and then the second distribution we went to an outdoor market.

Schmittler even had socks coming from California and Spain after involving friends and family in the project.

What is the one moment that stuck with you during this experience?

All of the kids that were standing there with their socks after we passed them out, and how excited they were just to have a pair.

How did doing this impact you as a person?

It made me realize how grateful I am for what I have, and to have the opportunity to live and experience a different culture. I’m hoping it will be an ongoing relationship, I’d go back tomorrow if I could.