“I’m not here to tell you to get rid of your TOMs or to never buy them again, but i want to share some information I’ve learned and thoughts I’ve had to help you make informed decisions and come to your own conclusion.
TOMs sounds like a great idea. People buy shoes and a pair is given to a poverty sticken child, but is it really doing as much good as one might think?
I was an avid TOMs supporter for the past year and practically bragged about how many pairs I owned, I was sold on the concept and could hardly imagine buying anyother shoes, however while in Uganda, i learned a bit about developement work, aid, and ethics, and feel responsible to pass on what i discovered. So, here i go….
TOMs is dedicated to the “one for one” movement, but they have been more successful then they expected and currently have so many shoes being purchased they hardly know what to do with them. They are going into small villages within developing nations and attempting to drop off thousands of shoes. They recently met with staff of invisible children in Uganda hoping to do a shoe drop in Gulu. The children of Gulu don’t wear shoes and none of them think there’s anything wrong with it. They have built up calloses on the bottom of their feet and really have no need for the shoes TOMs is trying to hand out. In some remote areas it is possible that shoes even attract negative attention and are seen as a bad thing to kids. The drop that TOMs was planning was being carried out by college age volunteers who, although good-hearted, are not experienced with international developement and do not understand the impact 17,000 shoes would have on the local economy and shoe industry. In many ways, TOMs is not fit or equipped for the work they are taking part in. Charities have had major influences on areas like Gulu around the world. Charities come in and drop off the crap that America doesn’t want, often the things Goodwill can’t even sell. These towns and villages are then left with temporary aid rather than long lasting empowerment and the people become dependent on hand-outs by rich westerns, which simply promotes the white stereotype that exists in most developing nations. TOMs did not plan on doing any follow up work in the area and has little data on the success or impact of their past shoe drops.
TOMs claims to be working to stop the spread of a debilitating disease, podoconiosis, however, in most of the locations they are dropping shoes, the parasite that carries this disease doesn’t even exist. the main locations that Podo is found is Ethiopia, and even there it is mainly contracted in standing water alone, where canvas shoes would not be much of a help in stopping the disease. There are a several medical organizations providing treatment where Podo is present and they are working to provide a lasting solution versus temporary aid. Another question that develops is, what happens when the shoes wear out? Obviously shoes can’t last forever, so will TOMs continue serving the same people year after year, and create dependence or simply leave the people to fend of themselves?
All too often a pair of TOMS shoes is merely a symbol to the public that their owner is a charitable person. However rather than purchasing a $45-$98 pair of shoes, the person could buy a reasonable $20 pair and donate the remainder, buying 2 nets to protect against malaria of even fund a child’s education for 6 months in Africa.
thanks for taking your time to read this and i hope in prompted some thoughts regarding TOMs, charity, and sustainable aid.
I’ve discovered so many new artists!
i can’t say i’m living outside the lines, or on the edge. that wouldn’t be truthful.
more often i just flail around wondering why there are lines and edges in the first place.
and why we haven’t all crossed them already.
+Sometimes I wish I hadn’t fallen in love with you, but then I realise I’d have missed out on so much.
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