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Friday, January 29, 2010

Shoes: “Changing the World One Pair at a Time“

Most people take their shoes for granted and if current studies can be believed we seem to own far more pairs than we ever will wear. According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), in 2006, U.S. consumers purchased 2.4 billion pairs of shoes. That is an estimated average of eight pairs of shoes per person and there is no reason to assume Australians are any different.

The average life expectancy of a pair of fashion shoes is approximately six months and most end up in landfill sites. On average it takes a 1000 years (one millennium) for a standard shoe midsole to degrade in a landfill. Shoes have a high environmental cost and there is much argument to support continuing the life of our shoes whether it be by regular repairs or recycling them to let others benefit.

Fashion aside shoes do provide comfort and protection to our feet which in times of disaster, like the Asian tsunami or Haiti earthquake are essential. The chaos which follows such catastrophic events mean dry clean clothing and footwear are often not in great supply. As was witnessed nearer home during the fires and floods in Australia last year it was the simpler household goods like bed linen and towels as well as basic clothing that helped the survivors in the bleak days and weeks which followed. In the presence of broken glass, twisted metal and raw sewage a sturdy pair of shoes is absolutely necessary.

Soles4Souls is an international shoe charity founded six years ago in the US after the Asian tsunami. Founder Wayne Elsey convinced fellow footwear executives to establish the charity to collect millions of new and gently used shoes for disaster survivors. Soles4Soles collect, sort then ship the much needed footwear to disaster areas for distribution. Since its inception the non-profit group have sent millions of pairs of new and gently-used shoes worldwide. Their motto is “Changing the World One Pair at a Time.”

Soles4Souls partners with other charities, companies and governments to continue the good work and are quick to respond to global events sending 1000s of shoes to the survivors of Katrina hurricane in New Orleans. Reaction to the Haiti disaster was swift with many of the Hollywood luminaries quick to lend their name to charity events. Singer, Jessica Simpson in conjunction with Soles4Souls has organized glitzi shoe drive intent in collection 50,000 shoes in 50 days. Already Soles4Souls has committed over 300,000 pairs of shoes to Haiti with plans for a further one million pairs of new boots and shoes for survivors. The group is also collecting apparel, blankets and other items to give to the earthquake victims.

There are several other charities including Shoes2Share International involved in similar activities.

Over the years collecting shoes for charity is has become well established with many well known groups such as Hope Runs; Shoes 4Africa; and Boots for Africa dedicated to promote Aids awareness in Africa through sport and education. They attract the patronage of the big shoe companies and sports organisations eager to associate themselves with worthwhile charities. Interest in Africa is heightened this year in particular because of the impending FIFA World Cup TM to be hosted in South Africa.

Second hand trainers can also find a good home through agencies like One World Running; Sole Responsibility and RecycledRunners.com. Children’s charities like the Shoe Bank for children; Shoes for Orphan Souls; and Shoes4Africa accept used shoe donations for children. The Children charities prefer new shoes or cash donations but most other adult charities are delighted to receive gently used footwear and will put them to good use.

The "Kicks for Kids" project was started in Iraq in 2004 by an American journalist. She was concerned about the Iraq children affected by hostilities and now her charity accepts shoe donations for children in Iraq.

To paraphrase, Neil Armstrong, “One small shoe, one giant leap for human kind.” And it just goes to show ‘what a difference a shoe makes.”

If you are interested in making shoe donations then please contact the websites of the individual charities.

Footnote
"Gently used" is a term used to define second hand footwear which is still wearable, with heels intact and without holes in the soles.

Excerpt from the Afternoons with Jenny Seeton Cutin FM 101, Perth Western Australia Friday 01/29/2010.

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