Murli Pendharkar, a retired Kelowna teacher,knows what it’s like to live unable to afford protection for your feet.
He lived that reality for 24 years of his life in India, where he grew up.
“Once in a blue moon I used to have a pair of flip-flops but they usually got lost or stolen.” Pendharkar’sfirst-hand experience is why he supported the campaign #Barefoot4Them on October 10.
“We’re very spoiled in this country in [these] terms… now I can’t even walk around my living room without something on my feet,” said Pendharkar, whose Rotary Club joined him by hosting their last meeting barefoot.
Over 10,000 people across nine countries participated in #Barefoot4Them by posting pictures of themselves online with the event’s name as a hashtag.
Jim Belshaw, chair of Soles4Souls Canada, called the support overwhelming. He continues to personally visit the children to help hand out the shoes from Soles4Souls.
“It’s life changing,” said Jim Belshaw, chair of Soles4Souls Canada, “to see the difference a new or used pair of shoes makes on a young child’s face and demeanor…they come shuffling into their church or community centre… then they run out skipping to show the shoes off to their mom and/or dad.”
Belshaw’s efforts are doing far more than providing safety and comfort. It’s also enabling education. “Without a pair of black dress shoes, they cannot go to school,” he said, explaining that Haiti requires a strict uniform to allow children in.
“A white shirt or blouse is a little easier to get, but shoes are not.” It’s not just Haiti either; Belshaw says there are many African countries with similar rules.
Belshaw left again for Haiti Saturday October 19. “We’ve got half a dozen orphanages lined up,” he said, each with 15-200 kids. “We’re going to try to put shoes on all those kids that need them.”
You can help contribute to the 350k shoes that have been given out so far by visiting https://soles4souls.org/donate. It only takes $1 to change the life of one person:
Soles4Souls provides one pair of shoes for each dollar donated.