In 2011, thousands of children received new TOMS shoes. Plans for 2012 shoe distributions in the works.
The distributions were part of PIH’s overall work to improve the health of poor communities – which includes programs to address the communities’ medical as well as socioeconomic needs. "You can build a hospital and you can give people medicine, but if you don't address their other needs, people are not going to get better,” says PIH Partnerships Manager Amanda Schwartz, who helped to organize the distributions.
Bare feet carry a number of ramifications in the communities served by PIH. For example, children without shoes are at a greater risk of becoming infected with soil-transmitted parasites, such as hookworm. These common infections can have debilitating effects on a child’s health and long-term development, including cognitive development. In addition, bare feet are at a higher risk of injury and resulting infections. Many students walk several kilometers each way to school, a journey that often takes them across huge stretches of scorching sands and rocky river beds, sometimes even discouraging students from attending school.
In addition to protecting children’s feet from cuts, infection and diseases, shoes also bring less tangible benefits, says Schwartz. “New shoes give children a sense of self, a feeling of pride, and the universal satisfaction that comes from feeling taken care of and provided for.”
“[The shoes] make me feel happy and that everything will be OK,” beamed Alfred Benson, a student whose parents are both subsistence farmers. His new black canvas TOMS slip-ons were the first pair of shoes he’s ever owned.
“Our goal isn’t simply to give shoes one time, but to continue to provide shoes to PIH for these children as they grow, so together we can truly have an impact on the health and well-being of this community,” said TOMS Shoes Senior Giving Accountant Manager Jenise Steverding. The partnership is already planning for future distributions in 2012, including a March distribution in Malawi.