I’ve never had to worry about shoes. I don’t think most people in the United States give it a second thought. We might wish we had fancier ones—Jimmy Choo’s or designer sneakers—but few Americans are walking around barefoot. For the poor among us, Salvation Army stores offer extremely cheap and lightly worn footwear. Donation boxes offer free footwear for those who can’t afford the Salvation Army. But in many places around the world finding cheap or free shoes just isn’t that easy.
Samaritan’s Feet is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to bringing shoes to shoe-less people around the world. According to their website, nearly 300 million people go without shoes every day. Nearly 1 million die each year from foot-borne illnesses that could have been prevented, if only they’d had shoes. Shoes offer more than protection from illness, however. Shoes provide protection from the sharp and dangerous bare ground. They offer comfort. For people who are used to picking their way over pointed stones and glass, shoes provide a much-needed respite from stress and pain.
When people in impoverished places do have shoes, often they are completely worn out, the wrong size, or impractical for every-day activities. Children often have ill-fitting shoes because their feet grow so fast. As anyone who has ever worn shoes that are too small knows, foot pain is a serious problem. Foot injuries caused by ill-fitting shoes, especially in children, can be life-long and debilitating. They can prevent a person from walking long distances or from standing for long periods of time. If your family depends on you to find food or to work on your feet, bad shoes can have far-reaching consequences. The wrong shoes can be worse than no shoes at all.
Like food and water, shoes should be considered a basic need. They are cheap to produce, easy to distribute, and they vastly improve quality of life. In order to raise awareness for this issue, Samaritan’s Feet has started the Barefoot for Barefeet campaign. They help volunteers organize barefoot events—walks, runs, and games—in which participants all go barefoot to make a statement in support of the 300 million people without shoes worldwide.
Samaritan’s Feet is comprised of 70,000 volunteers who work to distribute shoes to people in need around the world. Volunteers can choose to participate in a variety of ways. They can work in the Samaritan’s Feet warehouse, processing and shipping shoes, or they can work directly with people in need, delivering shoes and a message of hope. SF also works with other organizations like the US Navy and the NCAA. Visit their volunteer page to learn more.