A Step Forward in Liberia With TOMS Shoes
A little girl is fitted for new shoes, given by TOMS.
In Liberia, there are hundreds of happy feet thanks to ChildFund and TOMS.
Last week, ChildFund International delivered new TOMS Shoes to three communities. The shoes were provided by TOMS. Its One for One™ program provides a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold. And TOMS plans to send shoes for the children not just one time but repeatedly, as they grow.
“It was amazing,” says Marcia Roeder, ChildFund’s corporate relations officer. “There were kids as far as the eye could see. We would call out the shoe sizes and the names and put them on their little feet. There were a lot of thank-yous and kids shaking our hands.”
Liberia endured 14 years of civil war, which took a heavy toll on the education sector before the conflict ended in 2003. School enrollment and retention rates are low. One reason for this is that students are required to wear uniforms and shoes to school. Without shoes, they can’t attend.
A lack of shoes also means children’s feet are exposed to diseases, infections and cuts. A ChildFund study in 2010 estimated that 15 percent of school-aged children in developing countries have hookworm or another parasitic disease due to bare feet.
Children in Liberia have brand new shoes to wear in 2012 — some for the first time. Shoes are about more than walking, playing and jumping. What else can shoes do?
They protect against most foot diseases, including ringworm.
They prevent cuts and infections.
They allow a child to attend school. Children living in Liberia must own shoes to go to school, but many parents cannot afford them. Lack of shoes is a serious obstacle to education for many 5- to 8-year-old girls and boys.
A new pair of shoes, then, is a step out of poverty, and ChildFund’s partnership with TOMS is a step forward.
The shoe distribution went smoothly as ChildFund Liberia had prepared for the day. Staff had pre-sized the children and met with community members to let them know about the arrival of the shoes. When the big day came, community leaders joined the festivities. The Minister of Finance and other officials attended, as well. “They were really pleased to see the shoes going to the children,” Roeder says.
“It was such a tour de force,” says Kristin, giving account manager for TOMS. “Everyone came together. When we arrived after a three-hour drive, there was a big banner. Everyone was so excited.”
As the day went on, the energy remained high. “They were so excited to get their shoes,” Kristin says. “They didn’t want to stop for lunch.”
The high point of the day was putting the shoes on the children’s feet. “There was such amazement that they were getting shoes,” says Michael Brown, logistics specialist for ChildFund. “They were so happy and proud.”
Of course, like all children with a new pair of shoes, they immediately began playing and scuffing them up.