Shoes: The Ultimate Gift?
Feet allow humans to travel from one place to another. Without feet, we require assistance in getting anywhere, whether it is through crutches, wheelchairs, or any other form of help. So, when someone loses use of their feet, they become greatly impaired and lose many opportunities to advance in life. This is even more true in impoverished areas where both walking and foot disease are more common.
In Africa, a disease called “podoconiosis” affects “hundreds of thousands of people,” as stated by Blake MyCoskie. This disease comes from the silicone left in the soil by volcanic activity, seeping into the skin of the foot and breaking down the lymphatic system. The disease resembles elephantiasis, swelling the feet greatly, immobilizing the affected. The only way to prevent this is by wearing shoes, which means that shoes are the greatest gift you could give an African.
Shoes help prevent cuts and infections on the children’s feet, as well as let them attend school as shoes are required. These are major steps towards a successful future for an African child. So when African children receive shoes, they are given an opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their family members as well. With this in mind, Blake MyCoskie founded TOMS.
TOMS shoes donates one pair of shoes, for every pair they sell, to a child in need in an impoverished area. The shoes, however, are extremely flimsy and prone to falling apart within a matter of a few months. They have thin soles which leave the wearers feet close to the ground, prone to get wet and stay wet along with the layer of canvas upper encasing their feet. This leaves the user prone to water-borne foot diseases, and the low profile leaves part of the foot still prone to podoconiosis. Consequently, this means that TOMS can cause just as much harm as no shoes at all. TOMS could attempt to help the Africans in a better way though.
Foreign aid has left Africa with a weaker economy, dependent on donor assistance, and less promising for investors. Al Jazeera’s The Stream, states that approximately one trillion dollars have been donated to Africa from wealthy countries through foreign aid, yet Africa’s real-capita income is lower than in the 1970’s. TOMS contributes to this undermining, but could actually help the continent by relocating its factories to the continent. Africa needs jobs, not charity, in order to lift itself out of poverty and stay that way, so if TOMS were to provide jobs to impoverished Africans, they could afford to buy their own things, including shoes, creating a perpetual cycle of progress. TOMS is currently just a vehicle for “whites in shining armor,” but could become a real helping hand if it turned good intentions into successful aid.
“The Stream.” Stream.aljazeera.com. The Stream, 16 Apr. 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
MyCoskie, Blake. “Our Goal.” Toms.com. TOMS, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.
Zimmerman, Mike. “The Business of Giving: TOMS Shoes.” Success.com. Success, n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013.