Free School Shoes
For an underprivileged child in India, the path to school is arduous – from the tropical heat to rubble on the streets to stagnant water following the monsoons breeding disease – every step is fraught with danger, quite literally. These children are most often barefoot, while a few wear ill-fitting second-hand footwear or shoes that are fraying to the point of being threadbare from constant use. In the summer of 2013, OfERR kicked off this ambitious and immensely rewarding program to distribute a new pair of school shoes every six months to the most economically deprived children in India, from the time they begin school until they graduate. While the first shipment was of canvas shoes, the subsequent shipments were buckled and laced formal school shoes. With the generous patronage of Toms Shoes, California, till date, over half a million pairs of shoes have reached 90,000 Indian children and 23,000 refugee children in a movement that has taken on a life of its own.
Children from public schools, special needs centers, orphanages, tribal areas, HIV homes, slums and Sri Lankan refugee camps have all benefited from this program as well as those who were affected by the devastating floods in Tamil Nadu in 2015. The Toms Shoes distribution scheme employs an extensive preparation process that includes careful coordination with school authorities to acquire the correct sizes along with the gender of each child and organizing a meeting with teachers, administrators and the children to give them useful advice on hygiene and safety during distribution especially during the monsoons.