Donating old clothes is often one of the easiest ways people can help the less fortunate. From coat drives in the winter to fight hypothermia to toddler outfits for newborns in poverty, there has always been an immense amount of value in used clothes. However, during the global pandemic, both organizations and donors have shied away from accepting or donating pre-owned clothes in hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19. Yet, shoe donations remain a safe way to donate to those in need. For people living in extreme poverty, owning just one pair can be life-changing. Hundreds of millions of people across the globe are unable to afford shoes. This includes countless school children. A simple shoe donation can protect someone from hookworm, puncture wounds, sores and blisters, and provide overall comfort. In regions of the world where cars and public transportation are scarce, walking is a means of survival.
The Importance of Shoes in the Developing World
Resources are not as readily available in impoverished regions and can require a person to travel long distances to obtain them. In Africa and Asia, the average distance to reach clean water is 3.7 miles on foot. For medical resources, the journey is even longer. A study in Niger revealed that 61% of the population needed to walk for more than one hour to reach a hospital. This includes pregnant women trying to receive proper health care and anyone experiencing a health emergency. Traveling more than two hours on foot for medical care is excruciating and requires addressing. Luckily, these important charities are working to bring shoes to those who need them most.
Put Foot Foundation
School children are the primary focus of the Put Foot Foundation. Growing up with proper footwear can help children’s feet avoid injury and allow them to play worry-free. The foundation locates schools in South Africa that have student populations unable to obtain shoes and launches a “shoe drop.” Armed with comfortable all-purpose shoes in various sizes for both girls and boys, these shoe drops provide entire schools with footwear for all children. In many cases, the Put Foot Foundation provides children with their very first pair of shoes.
Born out of a runner’s trip to Africa, Shoe4Africa began in the mid-1990s. In the 25 years since the nonprofit began, it opened multiple schools and a hospital that has treated more than 200,000 patients. This was possible because of all the donations that it received at its numerous events, centered mostly around running. While its work has changed to include health care and educational improvements, Shoe4Africa does not forget its roots in shoe donations. Seeing women and children walk miles barefoot for basic human resources motivated this organization to begin, and to this day, it still delivers shoes to Africans in need.
Soles For Jesus
The work that church congregations in Africa are doing is crucial to improving living conditions. The nonprofit organization Soles For Jesus noticed the significant need for footwear in Africa and made it a part of its church mission to alleviate the issue. Donations of new and gently used shoes go to a warehouse where people separate pairs by size and place them in new boxes. After it collects a total of 8,000 pairs, a freight ship carries the load to its destination. The shoes then undergo distribution to the numerous church congregations that Soles For Jesus has relationships with. This ensures that it sends pairs all across the African continent, rather than to one specific country. More than half a million pairs of shoes that Soles For Jesus has sent out have reached people who rely on walking to access basic needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down donations of material goods all across the world. Yet, shoe donations remain a safe, helpful and easy way to improve the lives of those in the direst situations. These three charity organizations continue to accept donations of new and pre-owned shoes throughout the year. People who must travel 3.7 miles on foot to get fresh water cannot stop because of the pandemic and neither can the organizations trying to send them the proper footwear for their journeys.
– Zachary Hardenstine