By Kelsey Buckner
GUATEMALA CITY– All Sydney Sears ever wants on her birthday is shoes – lots of shoes. She always asks for a collection of different styles and a variety of sizes, but these shoes are not for her.
Celebrating her sixth year to raise shoes for Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®, Sydney, now 12, has made it a tradition to bless vulnerable children by asking her friends for shoes instead of gifts every September on her birthday.
After so many years of involvement with SOS, Sydney said her mother, Dawn, wanted her to see the other side of what she had been doing for a few years. Her mother did some research and learned about a shoe delivery trip to Guatemala. One that would open Sydney’s eyes to new cultures.
“It was really different from what we’re all used to – it’s really life changing,” Sears said. “It’s very poverty stricken in some places, but very fortunate in others, so it surprised me.”
During the trip the team visited a large government orphanage. There, Sydney said, she met children who lit up her heart. She has a younger sister who has special needs and at the orphanage she spent time with kids with needs similar to her sister’s.
“It was really heartbreaking,” she said. “My mom told me I could walk out if I needed to and that I didn’t have to stay if I was too sad or uncomfortable. I almost walked out at one point because I was just so heartbroken, but then I realized my sister could be in this place if she had (been born in other circumstances).”
Realizing that, Sydney said she showered the orphans with love and treated them as if they were a part of her family.
She will continue her shoe drive birthday tradition this fall for her 13th birthday. She said knowing where the shoes go and the smiles they bring to the children’s faces inspires her to do more. “It was neat to see where all the shoes went and that motivated me to do more. I really want to go back – really bad.”