CITW Zambezi Region distributes sustainable footwear in conjunction with “The Shoe That Grows”…
CITW donor Brandon Fraser contacted us in June 2016. Brandon had discovered Children in the Wilderness online and was keen to assist the programme by supplying a unique and innovative gift of shoes for the underprivileged. The Shoe That Grows provides sustainable footwear made from high quality durable materials such as compressed rubber soles and anti-bacterial, adjustable synthetic tops that grow up to five sizes with the child’s foot.
Founder Kenton Lee was living and working in Nairobi in 2007 where he noticed many children either had no shoes or had outgrown the shoes they had, and he was anxious to try find a way to provide those in need with a pair of shoes that would expand and adjust as they grew. Kenton and his team struggled through many failed attempts at prototypes and shoe company rejections, but believing in the idea and keen to find a solution, they kept working at the concept to form an adjustable shoe; after five years of hard work, their dream became a reality and they successfully launched “The Shoe that Grows” with the help of Because International.Org, an organisation committed to practical compassion.
It might surprise you to know that there are more than 300 million children worldwide who do not have shoes, and although some may benefit from donated shoes, because children are continuously growing, they sadly do not last very long. Children living in the remote rural areas of Zimbabwe and Zambia often do not have adequate sanitation or health care, and they struggle with proper hygiene, especially as their bare feet are so exposed. Many of these children travel substantial distances barefoot to get to and from school each day, and are often affected with disease and parasites that cause untold pain and discomfort; at times this affects them so badly that they cannot even make it to school.
Children in the Wilderness works with ten rural primary schools in Zimbabwe, and seven in Zambia, with more than 3,500 children under the age of 15.
With thanks to Brandon’s generous donation, the first 50 pairs of shoes arrived in Zimbabwe in November 2016 and January 2017 for distribution to those children most in need. Prior to distribution, CITW conducted a survey of 1600 students which showed that a staggering 45% of these children were wearing ill-fitting footwear, or in most cases, nothing at all.
The excitement and joy on the children’s faces as the shoes were handed out was exceptionally heartwarming; some of the younger children, who had never owned a pair of shoes before and hardly knew their left from their right foot, found the sensation entertainingly strange and looked a little like they were walking on hot coals – but without the pain or discomfort.
This has certainly been a most worthwhile initiative and so desperately needed by these deserving little children – our hearts were warmed by the smiles and reactions of the students who received them and we will be forever grateful to Brandon Fraser and The Shoe That Grows for their compassion and continued interest.
Written by Sue Goatley, Children in the Wilderness Community Liaison and Programme Coordinator: Zambezi Region