Reporting by Emmanuel Ford, ChildFund Liberia, and Marcia Roeder, ChildFund Corporate Relations Officer
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. Today we travel to Liberia, where TOMS just gave new shoes to children in a ChildFund-supported community.
The west African nation of Liberia is struggling to rebuild after 14 years of civil war. Still dependent on foreign aid, Liberia has the third highest unemployment rate in the world. Infant mortality rates are also high, and many children suffer from malnutrition, which can have life-long impact.
Although the civil war ended in 2003, it took a heavy toll on the education sector. School enrollment and retention rates are low. One reason for this is that students are required to wear uniforms and shoes to school. Without shoes, they can’t attend. A lack of shoes also means children’s feet are exposed to diseases, infections and cuts.
Earlier this month, ChildFund and TOMS delivered new shoes to three Liberian communities. The shoes were provided by TOMS. Its One for One™ program gives a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold. And TOMS plans to send shoes for the children not just one time but repeatedly, as they grow.
The day was truly amazing! As ChildFund and TOMS staff approached our first destination for shoe distribution – Bopolu Central High School – we could barely contain our excitement.
Children were lined up as far as the eye could see. Local education officers and representatives from the Liberian government were waiting for us to express their appreciation. After a few speeches and a whole lot of thank-you’s, we began the fun part – fitting shoes on the feet of eager children.
“I use to wear sandals to school,” one child told us. “My friends will not laugh at me again.”
With their old shoes in hand and new ones on their feet, children at Bopolu public school did an impromptu “TOMS Walk” in their TOMS shoes.
“I like my shoes. I also like the black color,” another child exclaimed. “I used to wear slippers to school. Thanks to TOMS, I got a new pair of shoes.”
Parents also voiced their appreciation. “ChildFund is doing a lot for our children. This will help retain our children in schools. Most parents are unable to buy a pair of shoes for their children,” one parent told us.
Another parent remembered that ChildFund’s President Anne Goddard visited Liberia in February 2011 to inaugurate the school built by ChildFund. “Now they have come with TOMS shoes,” he noted.
“This is a boost to our efforts in working with the children of Liberia,” said Oliver Fallah, a ChildFund staff member based in Bopolu, a community in Gbarpolu County. “It will help to increase the retention of children in schools. Having shoes from TOMS will also reduce the number of foot diseases children suffer from,” he pointed out. “The children sometimes walk to farms, schools and even on playgrounds barefooted. Parents with four, five and six children are unable to pay for copybooks [school workbooks], not to mention a pair of shoes. TOMS came at the right time to the right place.”
Discover more about ChildFund’s programs in Liberia.