Sunday, July 8, 2012

Walk a mile...without shoes

The girls walk for water in Guiledje, Guinea Bissau
Imagine walking for miles every day carrying a heavy bucket of water or rice on your head and wearing a pair of flip flops or walking barefoot?

The primary method of transportation in third world countries is by foot with children walking between 1 and 6 miles per day.

Did you know that over 300 million children throughout the world don't own a single pair of shoes?  

and these are just the shoes on my door!
Like many of us who go to our closets each day and choose from or varied selection of shoes (I bet that everyone reading this blog has at least 5 pairs of shoes and probably many more than that) our decision is more about "which" pair of shoes to wear and not about "if" we have a pair of shoes to wear. 
At any rate, I (like so many others), had not really paid too much attention to the importance of shoes until I bought those Tom's shoes the other day and read about his project to provide shoes to needy children.  

When I was in Africa (especially in the rural villages of Guinea Bissau) I saw many people (mostly children) walking barefoot. Some would have on flip flops and occasionally I would see a pair of crocs or jellies but flip flops are generally the shoe of choice in the majority of the third world countries because they are inexpensive. 

In 2008, Auburn University researchers found that wearing thong-style flip-flops can result in sore feet, ankles and legs. The research team, who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in 2008, found that flip-flop wearers took shorter steps and that their heels hit the ground with less vertical force than when the same walkers wore athletic shoes. When wearing flip-flops, the study participants did not bring their toes up as much during the leg’s swing phase, resulting in a larger ankle angle and shorter stride length, possibly because they tended to grip the flip-flops with their toes. This repeated motion can result in problems from the foot up into the hips.

Barefoot in Guiledje
The doctors outlined some potential health concerns associated with these casual, summer shoes.

People walking barefoot or in flip flops are highly susceptible to parasites from the soil that enter the skin through open cuts or scratches.  

People change how they walk when wearing flip-flops, gripping with their toes in order to keep the shoes in place. This can lead to stress in certain muscles and strain in toes, ankles, legs, hips and the back.

Because the flat and flimsy shoe bed in flip-flops does not provide adequate foot support for all-day wear, people may be at risk for arch pain, plantar fasciitis and nerve problems.

The lack of shock absorption in flip-flops also can lead to pain in the feet, legs, hips and back. Other problems associated with flip-flops include broken toes and toe nails, cuts and germs, the Mount Sinai experts say.
woman in Quebo, Guinea Bissau
As a rule, Tom's program supplies shoes to the needy children for life, but I have requested that if he were to help our villages, that it be a one-time shoe drop. I think Tom's BOGO (buy one - give one) model is a very good one for a temporary fix because the children need the help NOW but in the long run, I'm a firm believer in the old adage "teach a fisherman to fish" and that's the reason why "It Takes a Village" requires that all villagers help to finance and build the schools and wells that we help fund. They do this by supplying the labor and by donating the land.  

Once we have things under control (and the women and girls no longer have to spend long hours walking for water) I would like to help empower the women to start their own businesses. This will promote in-country development from the bottom up and help the villages become self sufficient enough to provide shoes and other vital services on their own. 


Toni said...

Excellent ideas...I have known about Tom's shoes and the good projects they support for awhile. I hope that they will help us in Guinea Bissau (did you tell them how you managed to get the items there through Maritza?). anyway...I hope that we get a good response from them. Let me know if you want me to try contacting anyone else for you. I will always do what I can!

devon said...

I didn't go into a lot of detail but tried to get my point across enough to have them contact me. I think I'm going to search for another email address as that one went to the general mailbox. I saw a video where he was being interviewed by Ellen (love her) So, we'll see. If you happen to think of any way "in" let me know. I can use the help. Thanks bunches XOXO