Sunday, 1 May 2016

Finding New Feet

Watching my daughter grow up is such an amazing experience.  Each and every day there is a new word or a quirky line worth trying to store in my memory bank to recall at a later date in the hope of relaying the tales of her cuteness in fifteen, twenty or thirty years’ time.  This daily delight is also, unfortunately, coupled with the not-so-amazing “she’s growing up too fast”.  Every stage of her 6 years so far has been awesome in its own way and whilst I want to keep her at 6 months forever or two years forever, the next stage comes along and quickly replaces the nostalgic sigh in my heart because I am so caught up in who she is becoming in the here and now.  As our little ones grow they tend to leave behind a trail of forgotten toys (Pixar made millions off the back of this reality – ever seen Toy Story?), fluffy one-piece animal suits and that adorable dress or funky button-up shirt which made them look like a mini adult on that special occasion.  We box them, hide them in a forgotten corner in the loft or sell them on popular auction websites.  These tangible, comforting reminders of who our little ones were are outgrown all too quickly and find themselves crammed up in some nook ready for semi-permanent hibernation.

And then there are the shoes.  An outgrown pair by the front door.  Outgrown Wellies at the backdoor (reluctantly burdened by the dried up remains of last winter’s muddy adventures).  The smart, formal shoes to go with that dress or funky button-up shirt that never even got to fulfil their life’s purpose of donning a squishy left or right foot.  Last summer’s flip-flops you bought in the winter because they were on sale, but by the time summer came they were too small.  And then there are my favourite pair – the hand-me-down tap dancing shoes from who-knows-where, shy of a pair of shoelaces.  These collective little pairs (and believe me, I am reluctant to use the word pair too loosely; we all know that the left shoe is under the sofa and the right one is underneath a pile of toys in the toy box) are scattered reminders of our little ones growing up too fast.

What if we could put these reminders to good use?  What if these little scattered objects which are either shiny and new or are so worn that they are clutching on desperately to avoid extinction (because we all know there is no in-between when it comes to kiddies shoes) could inspire education, score a goal on the other side of the world or tap away on wooden floorboards in a Central African school hall much to the delight of a hundred smiling faces in the audience?  If you are anything like me, there is no room for what if’s in this life and nor should there be.  Enter Sal’s Shoes, a UK based charity that does the very thing we have been “what if-ing” about.  CJ has done this very thing.  She has hosted collection after collection and has managed to send donated shoes globally, and the figures are impressive!  All this in the space of only two years.

Now I’ve never done an interview where I am expected to take the role of the interviewer in any of my previous blog posts, but whilst chatting to her the other day about what she does as a day job after having met her a few years ago, I was gripped by this incredible feat and all I wanted to do was reach out to my audience and beg you not to miss out on something incredible which is happening as you read this.  I pried into how people can get on-board to ensure that those scattered little critters we call shoes can be put to good use once they are so quickly outgrown.  If you are as interested as I was when talking to CJ, read on.  This is what she has to say:

I was reading some incredible stats on the Sal’s Shoes website – hit me with some numbers!
There are an estimated 300 million children in the world for whom walking with shoes is a rarity. In many countries you cannot go to school and access an often free education, unless you own a pair of shoes.  Protected feet are healthy feet; the World Health Organisation says that soil-transmitted diseases - caused by different species of parasitic worms (the roundworm, the whipworm, and the hookworm) - are among the most common infections worldwide and affect the poorest and most deprived communities. In just over two years, we have found new feet for 42,000+ pairs of outgrown, but not outworn, shoes and got them walking again in 30 countries worldwide, including in the UK.

Social media is such a vital cog in the wheel of any organisation.  Where is Sal’s Shoes and how can we learn more, stay up to date, etc?
Agree totally – as a charitable organisation we have completely snowballed because of the support we’ve been fortunate enough to receive and by harnessing social media for what we believe is a good cause.
Twitter:  @sals_shoes

Most of my readers are based in America and my homeland South Africa.  Can they help?  Are you set up to receive donations from abroad?
We are but we don’t always need to be – this year we have started launching in-country collections where shoes collected within a country are distributed within that country. SA is one of them! If you want to jump on board and organise an in-country collection, please send us an email

Let’s be frank for a moment.  You grew up in southern Africa, I grew up in southern Africa – can donors be sure that the shoes are finding their way to the right feet?
They can be assured that we’re doing our due diligence and work hard to build up relationships with the organisations who distribute Sal’s Shoes. Can we guarantee it when we send a consignment overseas, no, but we can try our damndest and we’re not cynical, we believe in what we’re doing.

If I donate a pair of shoes (just to let you know that they will be black, have no laces and can be used for tap dancing), can I track where they have been sent to?
The shoes need to worn again.  No holes in soles.  Think of the new owner and give them a quick clean.  Laces if they need them.  Ballet/tap/jazz shoes, football boots, slippers, school shoes, trainers and just about any other type you can think of, all acceptable. Size irrelevant, my feet haven’t grown since I was 11 and I wear a size 6, as long as they are child-appropriate (no heels!). We were built on the premise that we know where every single pair of shoes ends up walking again – this may be as specific as a school in the UK collecting a shoe haul that gets distributed at a school abroad, or weather-appropriate so if you sent us a pair of winter shoes/boots in September/November last year they are now being worn by young Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq.

The most important question of all – how do I get the outgrown kiddies shoes into your hands?    
Several ways – you can post them to us, deliver them to us or drop them off at one of our ongoing drop off locations, you can send us one pair, or organise a school collection or get your place of work to host a collection – all info can be found at  and if you’re still confused drop us an email (and if you’re shoe-less but want to help us to keep being able to pass on pre-loved shoes to their new owners you’re always welcome to make a monetary contribution Giving  a pair of shoes a second life can give someone else a chance of  a new beginning.

And that is that!  It is incredible how a small seed planted in our minds can grow into something so amazing and something which can have a global impact.

So, in summary, your help and support is only one click away.  


CJ of Sal's Shoes


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