Thursday, June 03, 2010

How Shoes Can Change a Life

As Americans (and as women) we love our shoes. We spend hours on the weekends scouring for the right pare of pumps for that perfect little dress. When we get them home, we wear them once and then toss them to the back of our closets until the next event. I am guilty of this very thing myself. In fact, before I started working at my current job, I was constantly concerned that I didn’t have enough shoes. I knew I had plenty of pairs that weren’t ‘in’ anymore, but I didn’t think that my ‘unworn’ shoes could help change someone’s life.

That is until I started working for an organization called Soles4Souls, the international shoe charity dedicated to providing a free pair of shoes to people in need. They offer a solution to the growing need for footwear by refurbishing our ‘gently’ worn shoes and giving them to people who are less fortunate. We receive emails and letters all the time from struggling mothers who felt unattractive and alone until they receive a pair of shoes at a distribution and it changes their whole outlook on life.

Our Founder Wayne Elsey just returned last Thursday from a shoe-distribution trip to Haiti, and what he saw there was astonishing:

Toddlers roaming the streets in the midst of rubble and raw sewage without supervision, food, clothing, or shoes.

People in the tent cities in Port-Au-Prince were without running water or electricity, not knowing where their next meal will come from—children can’t go to school or get clean clothes.

Parents are weak from giving their children any spare scraps of food they get to their children.

People are literally starving to death on the side of the streets.

He spent a day with the children at a local orphanage in Port-Au-Prince, and as he reached down to fit these tiny feet with their only pair of shoes, he realized they were also reaching for his hands, grabbing his cheeks, crawling on his lap. So he took the time to hold each one of them, listen to their stories (even if he couldn’t make out their broken Creole), and show them that they mattered. The children left that day with more than just a pair of shoes, they left with the HOPE of a brighter tomorrow.

These horrific circumstances are not unique to Haiti; with more than 300 million children in the world who don’t own a single pair of shoes.Today is the start of Soles4Souls' 3rd Annual National Barefoot Week. From June 1-7 we are encouraging people like you to help us raise awareness for this international crisis by participating in the week in some small way (even with the hustle and bustle of marriage and motherhood).

Below are some simple ways I’m encouraging my friends to get involved. Your little acts can help us change the world one pair at a time.

•Go barefoot for a day - or even just an afternoon and blog about the experience, or talk about it with friends
•Encourage your kids or coworkers to designate a day to go barefoot
•Raise funds for Soles4Souls through a designated fundraiser page
•Clean out your closet and drop off your unworn shoes at an official drop off location
•Host a shoe drive at your local school, day care, church, work place, etc.
•If you’re a blogger, use your blog to post pictures of your family or office going barefoot.
•Change your twitter or facebook avatar to your barefoot and let your friends know that June 1-7 is National Barefoot Week

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