Last week, 33,333 new pairs of TOMS shoes arrived at a Partners In Health (PIH) warehouse in Port-au-Prince. Staff from PIH’s Haitian sister organization Zanmi Lasante (ZL) immediately went to work distributing the black canvas shoes to children living in and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince, in partnership with the nonprofit organization Operation Blessing International.
Many of the shoes were distributed to orphans, school children, and the children of people who are receiving care for injuries sustained during the recent earthquake.
When families fled from their homes in the wake of the recent disaster, many of them left their belongings behind, including their shoes. In the Haitian school system, if a child does not wear closed toe shoes, he or she cannot enter a school’s classrooms-shoes can literally provide access to education.
“All of the children were extremely excited,” said Cate Oswald, PIH Program Manager for Psychosocial Support and Mental Health in Haiti.
Zanmi Lasante (ZL) social workers—staff with daily contact with the local communities—have spearheaded the shoe distribution. In addition to school children and children of patients injured by the earthquake, they have distributed shoes to children experiencing problems with "Foot Flies" (Shik in Haitian Creole), at ZL sites in Hinche and Boucan Carre.
Foot flies aren’t the only worry. Hookworm, soil born parasites, and other preventable diseases can be threats to the shoeless. These parasites often impede mobility—meaning afflicted children may not be able to help their families with farming and other household chores, or even travel to access health care or attend school. Adequate foot protection is the first step in preventing this vicious cycle.
PIH/ZL staff report that the black shoes provided by TOMS are well made, durable, and appropriate. “Black is a good color, as most students have to wear black shoes for school,” said Cate. “Black is also a neutral shoe color so both genders are comfortable wearing them.”
TOMS has donated shoes to PIH programs since 2009. With the support of customer donations, TOMS has helped tens of thousands of children patients. The shoe donations are part of TOMS’ One for One movement.