“For the first time, I was given a shoe that was new and not worn by somebody else. I felt I owned something that I could be proud of,” says 11-year-old Ruchi, from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh.
This is the impact of TOMS Shoe Giving partnership with Akshaya Patra. TOMS has partnered with Akshaya Patra to give new shoes to standard 1 to 10 Government school children to promote good health, education and self-esteem. Akshaya Patra received nearly 600,000 pairs of new shoes from TOMS as part of the Foundation’s ‘Beyond the Meal’ programme, and thus far has distributed over 524,000 pairs to students in Vrindavan, Nayagarh and Ballari. The remaining shoes will be distributed in the coming months.
Through the Beyond the Meal programme Akshaya Patra partners with corporates, individuals, NGOs and other agencies to address obstructions to the proper implementation of the mid-day meal programme.
By enabling students to wear shoes regularly, TOMS and Akshaya Patra are promoting healthy habits in the children that will change their lives for years to come. Regularly wearing the shoes will improve their health by reducing foot-related diseases and exposure; their improved health will have a positive effect on their nutrition, class attendance and cognitive abilities, and also nurture a sense of pride and self-esteem among the students.
Since many of the students benefitting from the initiative have never owned a new pair of shoes in their life, the shoes act as an added incentive for students to attend school. The shoes being of good quality also help protect the students from harsh weather conditions, and from sustaining injuries.
D S Hiremath, Head Mistress of a school in Hubballi, Karnataka agrees with this saying, “It’s a fact that shoes or proper footwear doesn’t fit into the budget of many poor families. This is one of reasons why children walk barefoot to school. Because of these new shoes, many wounds and scars can be prevented, which can otherwise get infected and cause immense pain to the tender feet of children. If not prevented, along with their health these infected wounds can cost them study hours and distract the students from class room activities. These new shoes are very helpful for children to carry out their daily activities easily.”
“We don’t have proper roads in the village. It is mostly mud roads. Earlier when I walked barefoot, my feet often hurt and they would be covered in dust. I also had a lot of bruises and cracks in my feet. Because I wear shoes now, I can avoid all that. I have also learnt that I can get sick if I don’t wear shoes regularly as the germs can infect through my feet. Also, I think I look nice with my shoes on. I thought only children in the cities were lucky to own shoes, now I do too,” adds young Ruchi, with heart-warming honesty.
Thirteen-year-old Chaitra Mariyappanavar from Hubballi, Karnataka, also shares her experience of receiving a new pair of TOMS Shoes saying, “One day it was announced in the school that we have to give our foot measurement. We were shocked and very happy to hear that we were receiving a new pair of shoes to wear. When distribution started in the school, on that day we were all eagerly waited in the line to get our pairs of shoes, thinking about how they will look and how I will look after wearing the shoes. Finally I got shoes and felt very happy. In the evening when I went home and showed them to parents, they also felt very happy. The next day my parents came to school and conveyed their thanks for the free shoes; especially such good quality shoes.”
“For the first time in my life, I was wearing new shoes, and for the first time I was going to school in complete uniform, I felt extremely happy and proud to go school wearing my new shoes,” Chaitra adds.
TOMS Shoes have had a profound impact on the daily lives of these children. “Walking barefoot can make it tedious to attend school. Now TOMS’ new shoes makes the school journey easy and pleasant. Wearing their own new shoes triggers a sense of pride, confidence and uniformity in children. Going to school is now more fun. The children also realise the importance and benefits of wearing new shoes. It also enhanced their sense of cleanliness. Eventually children can bring this awareness to the people they know,” says Shridhar Venkat, CEO of Akshaya Patra.