I first heard about Soles4Souls around a month ago when a good friend of mine sent out an email saying she was going to Haiti and that she was collecting shoes to give to the people there.
As a shoe designer who relishes in those few moments of holiday bliss where we can wander beaches barefoot and never thought much more about it, this immediately caught my attention.
The reality of life in many developing nations is that many people don’t have shoes, a lot of them growing up without ever having owned a pair.
Shoes help prevent the spread of parasitic diseases that plague over 1.4 billion people worldwide. They are a basic human need. Puncture wounds and cuts can lead to serious infections, amputations and even death. Considering the contaminated conditions these people are living in the risk is tremendous and children are especially vulnerable to hookworm – an infection 60 times more common in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Soles4Souls is a charity that was set up by American footwear industry exec Wayne Elsey who, in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, was haunted by the image of a single shoe washed up on the beach. Through his contacts in the industry Elsey collected over a quarter of a million shoes to be donated to people who had lost everything.
Following the Katrina disaster that hit a year later, he collected well over a million pairs.
Today, Soles4Souls have distributed around 12 million pairs of shoes in 125 countries. Yet there are still over 300 million children who today don’t have shoes, while in the US alone over 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away each year.
By giving to Soles4Souls we’re not only helping people in need, we’re reducing our carbon footprint: it takes all sorts of chemical processes to make the different parts in a shoe and when thrown away into land fills these chemicals contribute to poisoning our atmosphere and even our water supplies.
At Mechante we end up with lots of samples in various sizes that are worn for press, meaning they can’t be sold. This month we’ll be sending all of these samples to Soles4Souls.
To find out more go to www.soles4souls.org.