This April 16, many ChildFund employees will spend our workday without shoes to call attention to children's needs.
One Day Without Shoes, an event started by TOMS Shoes six years ago, creates awareness for children's health and education and the role shoes can play in helping create opportunities for a better future.
Without shoes, children run the risk of cuts, disease and infections (which can lead to compromised health later on), and many can't attend school if they don't have shoes and uniforms.
A ChildFund study in 2010 estimated that 15 percent of school-age children in developing countries have hookworm or another parasitic disease due to going barefoot. Studies show that children affected by hookworm are 20 percent less likely to go to school and earn 40 percent less in adult life.
In Liberia, which emerged from civil war a decade ago, school enrollment has been low for primary school-age children, in part because they often lack shoes. In January 2012, ChildFund worked with TOMS to coordinate delivery of hundreds of pairs to children in three Liberian communities.
One student, 10-year-old Kulubah, says, "Now I will use my new TOMS Shoes to go to school, and the teacher will not send me home. My friends will not laugh at me again." Since those first deliveries in Liberia, children in our Angola, Sierra Leone and Zambia programs have received TOMS as well.
"One Day Without Shoes started with a small group of students on a college campus six years ago," says Sebastian Fries, chief giving officer at TOMS. "We are humbled by the tremendous support we’ve seen across the globe and the awareness it has generated for the need for shoes and the impact they can have when given by organizations like ChildFund. We are grateful to make a contribution to children like Kulubah so they can stay in school."
In developed countries, "we have so many options of what kind of shoes to wear," says Sadye-Ann Henry, a ChildFund treasury assistant who participated in the event last year and plans to go barefoot this year. One activity that involved walking on rocks showed Sadye-Ann "how tender our tootsies are" and gave her a glimpse of the challenges that children without shoes face every day.
Anyone can participate in One Day Without Shoes. Just kick off your shoes and join us in making our friends and neighbors aware of an important cause.