Growing up in a small village called West-Jeman in Kenya’s Elgeyo-Marakwet County, Jacob Chebii never owned a pair of shoes. He and his classmates walked barefoot up to 10 miles each day to get to and from school. Today, Chebii is both an athlete and a business student at Coker College — and he’s working to help the children back home in Kenya.
“Jacob is so dedicated to helping the children of Kenya,”
Chebii, a rising sophomore, came to Coker on an athletic scholarship for track and field. He performed remarkably well in his freshman season, breaking several records in both the 5k and 8k categories. He won both the USC Open and the FMU Invitational, finishing in the top 30 in four of his six races. In addition to his athletics and his studies, Chebii also works on campus for Coker College Dining Services.
But soon after arriving at Coker, Chebii realized he wanted something even more: to give back to his community back home. He started purchasing unwanted clothing and shoes from a local used clothing store for $5 a bundle. With the help of his uncle in Tennessee, he sent the items back to his village’s church, Kapkutung Aic Church, which distributed the shoes and clothing to people in the community.
Then, Chebii realized that if he sought the help of the Coker community, he could do even more. The cross country and track and field teams, along with Head Coach Benny Morgan, immediately stepped up to help organize the drive. Several campus organizations volunteered to host donation areas, which accepted new and gently worn shoes of all styles and sizes. In the first month alone, more than 70 pairs of shoes were donated.
Encouraged by the initial success of his program, Chebii expanded even further. He reached out into the Hartsville community, working with the Hartsville Area Recreation Department to provide an off-campus community drop-off location. Altogether, in just three months, Chebii collected more than 410 pairs of shoes for elementary and high school students in Kenya.
“Jacob is so dedicated to helping the children of Kenya,” says Darlene Small, assistant dean of students and director of the Trans4mations program, who helped Chebii plan and promote his project. “On top of his obligations as a student-athlete, he was willing to do whatever was necessary to make the shoe drive a success. It was also important to him to thank everyone who participated. Caring about those who gave, as well as the recipients, speaks to the character of this young man.”
For Chebii, the experience ignited a passion for giving back. After he graduates with a bachelor’s degree in business, he plans to open a nonprofit organization for athletic students who dream of continuing their education beyond high school. Chebii is determined to accomplish his goals, and his enthusiasm is infectious. “When you get a chance in life, don’t pass it up or throw it away,” he says.