March 15 is National Shoe the World Day, a day set to bring awareness to the millions of people daily who do not have appropriate footwear. While over 600 million people worldwide don’t own a single pair of shoes, women in America on average own 19 pairs of shoes and buy four new pairs a year.
I consider myself to be a fairly minimalistic person with a simple wardrobe, but upon analysis, I discovered that I own a whopping 21 pairs of shoes (I counted several different colors of flip-flops and my slippers, which I wear constantly). I have shoes for these outfits and shoes for those outfits, shoes that go with that dress and boots to go with those pants. I have summer shoes and winter shoes (I feel like four-season people ought to get a break on this guilt trip… we have to have shoes for all seasons!)
The point of National Shoe the World Day really isn’t to make you and me feel guilty about the number of shoes we own but to raise awareness about how many people do not have shoes at all.
Shoes are often an overlooked necessity in humanitarian support and the fight against poverty. They can be difficult to secure in materially poor communities. As much as I love to go shoeless in my own backyard, I do so by choice, when it’s warm and sunny, in a place I don’t expect to accidentally step on something dangerous or dirty.
Shoes protect our bodies from disease, prevent foot problems like ingrown toenails and corns, alleviate pain, and are often a requirement globally for children to receive an education. On this National Shoe the World Day, find a way for your family to provide shoes for those who are less fortunate than you. Here are some ideas:
Host a Shoe Fundraiser
GotSneakers collects wearable sneakers you have tucked away in a closet—you know the ones, your “garden” shoes or “work” shoes, your worn out running shoes that still have a little life in them—and recycles or reuses quality pre-loved sneakers. Not only are the gently used shoes recirculated so that people can access affordable, quality, pre-owned footwear, but the heavily used and damaged shoes are recycled to reuse materials or to convert waste into new energy. Plus, for every pair of shoes that are donated, GotSneakers will pay your organization based on the quality of shoe.
GotSneakers is intended only to collect athletic footwear, so leave your fancy high heels you wore that one time for another organization (like Soles4Souls, below).
Plan a Shoe Drive
Soles4Souls collects gently used shoes and distributes them to developing countries, where people start small businesses to sell them. These new small businesses allow business owners to generate income for their family while providing people who need shoes with an affordably priced option. At the same time, your shoe donation diverts shoes in okay condition from landfills, helping to promote sustainability. If you donate 10 pairs of shoes, you have helped save approximately 300 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions released when new shoes are manufactured and kept 12.5 pounds of textiles out of landfills. Those 10 pairs of shoes can provide food, shelter, and education for a family for five days in countries like Haiti and Honduras.
Throw a New Shoe Birthday Party for Children in Need
There’s nothing like that feeling of a brand-new pair of shoes. When I was a kid, I vividly remember looking forward to getting that fresh pair of sneakers at the start of the school year. New shoes give children a sense of hope and opportunity while also meeting their basic health needs and giving them access to education. Buckner International’s Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® provides new shoes and socks to orphans and vulnerable children in the United States and throughout the world.
While Buckner partners with area communities to host shoe drives and collects cash donations to buy shoes and socks for children, families can also choose to turn their birthday parties into new shoe drives! Just ask your friends and family to bring new shoes instead of gifts to your birthday party.
Buckner emphasizes the importance of providing orphans with new shoes because they last longer, and “as a gift to a child with few possessions, they communicate volumes about his or her inherent worth. Simply put, we think the children we serve are worth it.”
Donate Used Shoes Locally
The need for shoes isn’t just out there, it’s also right here, in your own backyard. Local consignment shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army are great options that will either resell your used shoes at an affordable price or donate them to an area homeless shelter.