Are you aware of the impact a pair of shoes has on a child? For those of us who have the luxury of clothed feet on a daily basis, probably not. Earlier this year the Green Times supported the ‘One Day Without Shoes’ cause to help raise awareness for those worldwide who are without. Over 250,000 (likely to be much more that this) people went without shoes in 2010. This issue is greatest in developing countries where countless children must walk barefoot for miles to school, to access clean water and medical care.
Over a million shoes given away
In 2006, the American traveller Blake Mycoski befriended children in Argentina and noticed they lacked shoes. Wanting to help, he founded ‘TOMS Shoes’. His company matches every pair of shoes purchased worldwide, with a pair of shoes donate to a child in need. This project ‘One for One’ has been extremely successful. As of September 2010, TOMS has given away over a million shoes to children worldwide.
On ‘One Day Without Shoes’ this year I attended a workshop on ‘greening the office’ suitably barefoot. I was slightly nervous at first – Would I get strange looks from the attendees? Would I be allowed in without any shoes? …
I need not have worried though. I received a few passing glances at my toes before I was given the opportunity to introduce myself, and my bare feet. Although the response was positive, unfortunately no other shoes were removed that day. Any bad smells in the room were told to be blamed on me: “If you smell anything bad then it’s most likely her feet”. I did not mind, after all I was helping to raise awareness for the cause and felt that I helped others feel more comfortable with the presence of bare feet within formal settings.
Numb toes for poor children
The workshop, situated in a cool building, lasted the entire day. By the end, my feet were numb! At every opportunity I searched the ground for signs of warmth, be it my bag or literally raising them off the ground. Walking barefoot is fine on sun-soaked paths, provided there is no broken glass, stagnant puddles or dog mess. As soon as your shoes come off you become much more aware of the ground beneath your feet. I particularly tried to avoid gravel paths!
What is important to remember however, is that many people do not have a choice! If they have no shoes, no bag to place their feet upon and no smooth paving slabs, more often than not they will be walking on uneven terrain every day. Imagine the discomfort they must feel!
Soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet, are a problem in some developing countries. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, cuts and sores, and the long-term physical harm they cause. Not only are these injuries painful, they are also at risk of infection.
Some children are unable to attend school barefoot as shoes are a required part of their uniform. Why not show your support for One Day Without Shoes next year, or even today? Better still, donate your shoes to those who need them or take them to the Hospice shop to help raise money for a charity. Also, check out TOMS Shoes for eco-friendly footwear!
By Debbie Worthington