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Foot soldier on sole search

Calyn Walton, 15, hopes to find shoes for orphans in Zambia and treat their foot infections. Her first stop: boot camp.

June 11, 2008|By Daniel Tedford

On a summer day in Newport Beach, Calyn Walton would normally be sporting flip-flops, ballet flats or maybe some Vans. Spending a lot of her time on the beach, running around in Red Wing construction shoes isn’t exactly how most 15-year-old girls accessorize during their summer vacation.

But until Aug. 14, Calyn’s feet are going to be locked in those boots, as she has chosen to help children orphaned by AIDS in Zambia, Africa, rather than stick her toes in the sand all summer, as many of her friends will.

“It’s going to be hard to see homeless people living on the streets,” Calyn said. “But I will be able to help many people.”

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Calyn will leave her home June 21 for a special boot camp in Florida to prepare her for her time in Africa. After two weeks of training, she will then visit Zambia until Aug. 14 as part of the Zambia Footwashing Program with Teen Missions International.

Calyn’s friends were “bummed” she wouldn’t be around for the summer, and Calyn admitted she wouldn’t mind hanging out on the beach and messing around with her friends for the next two months. But for Calyn, the decision to go to Africa was an easy one.

“I have always had a passion to go to Africa,” she said. “It’s going to be a huge change. But I have to give up what I have and devote myself to them. I have to give back to them.”

The ministry will help construct homes and buildings, but the teens will focus their time on a simple luxury they normally take for granted — shoes. They will help protect the feet of the children who normally walk without socks or shoes, and develop sores and infections. They will also help to clean the children’s feet, hoping to fend off potential infections while giving them treatment they wouldn’t normally receive.

“We live in a very protected society,” Calyn’s mother, Raili Clasen, said. “I am stoked she is getting out of the bubble.”

Clasen has received mixed reactions from other parents about her daughter going to Africa. Some fear for her safety, but Clasen said the ministry keeps them protected and has a long history working in the region.

Calyn isn’t too scared. She has been preparing for the trip for the last six months, talking to the ministry, purchasing supplies and raising $4,000.

In preparation, she will attend a two-week boot camp in Florida with physical fitness activities to prepare the volunteers for their time in the African desert.

Calyn will turn 16 while at the boot camp and has never been out of the country besides another community service trip to Mexico. The young girl, who has hardly done her own laundry at home, will have to take care of herself when she has to wash her clothes out of a bucket in Africa and use a clothesline to dry them, among other chores.

“I am scared,” Calyn said. “But I am so excited at the same time.”


DANIEL TEDFORD may be reached at (714) 966-4632 or at daniel.tedford@latimes.com.

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