Shoes for South Africa

Q: You are taking your family to South Africa?!?
A: Yes! We planned this trip a long time ago. But after our Alaska road trip, we decided to postpone South Africa until our kids were older. A few months ago, we unexpectedly felt the pull to South Africa, so we are going!

Q: Have you ever been to South Africa before?
A: Yes. Steve and I spent a semester in South Africa in 2002, when we were newlyweds. That's when we met Derrick.  

Q: Why are you going to South Africa?
A: Derrick has been waiting a very long time to go back to South Africa to visit family and friends. We always planned on taking our kids someday. The timing feels right. We are still, however, nervously waiting for Derrick's passport to arrive. But since we already have our tickets, it looks like we are going, with or without him. 

Q: So, why the shoe project? 
A: When we first started planning our trip, we looked into volunteer projects or something we could do while we were in South Africa to make our experience more meaningful. Most of the volunteer organizations do not allow young children to participate. And some of the volunteer projects are very expensive. I tried to think of something that our kids could actively participate in. At the same time, family members started asking what they could send with us on our trip to give to the children in South Africa. One afternoon, I came up with the idea for "Shoes for South Africa". 

Q: Did you participate in a project like when you went to South Africa before?
A: Sort of. Steve and I worked as volunteers at the Border Technikon (a technical college) in East London. Steve set up the Supplementary Instruction (S.I.) program and I taught a Life Skills course. One of our assignments from my professor at Utah State University was to track down the Dukelweni Primary School that my class had raised money to build

We drove through some very remote areas: 

And finally located the school: 

Where we met lots of beautiful, shoeless children:  

Q: Why Converse All-Stars?
A: We wanted to narrow it down to something a little more specific so the shoes for the kids will be fairly uniform. We don't want to give one child a pair of cheap shoes and then another child a pair of Air Jordans. Converse All-Stars are perfect. They are unisex, durable, and timeless. And we love all of the bright colors!

Q: Are there any other reasons?
A: Yes! There is some other significance with the All-Stars as well. When Derrick first arrived in Utah, my sister's friend purchased him a pair of black Converse All-Stars. He was ecstatic, and I even have a video of him dancing in his new shoes. He took great care of those shoes and wore them long after he outgrew them. One of Kaleigh's first baby gifts was a tiny pair of pink All-Stars. . . we like All-Stars. 

Q: Where can I buy Converse All-Stars? (Also called Chuck Taylor All-Stars or just "Chucks")
A: Just about anywhere. JCPenney, Kohl's, Famous Footwear, Nordstrom, amazon.com. The best price we've found is at 6pm.com for $19.99 with free shipping. 

Q: When do you need the shoes?
A: The very last day to collect shoes is May 21. That's in three weeks!

Q: How many pairs of shoes are you trying to collect?
A: Our goal is 350 pairs of shoes. That's the approximate number of kids who live in Coffee Bay. We already have about 50, so we still need to collect 300 pairs in three weeks. . . that's 100 pairs per week!

Q: What sizes of shoes are needed?
A: We need shoes for kids ages 5-12 because that's the most common age of kids who go to school. Sizes 12, 13, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are great. 

Q: What colors of shoes do you want?
A: We are requesting solid colored shoes. We don't want one child to get a fancy pair, designed with glitter and sequins, and then give another child a plain pair. So far, we have received lots of reds, blacks, and greys. 

Q: Should I buy high-tops or low-tops?
A: Either one is fine. The low tops are slightly preferable because they are smaller to pack, but if you find some high-tops on sale, they are great too!

Q: How are you transporting them?
A: We are taking extra luggage and bringing the shoes to South Africa with us. Steve is a little stressed out about traveling with four kids and five large duffel bags full of shoes, but it is the least expensive way to get them there. 

Q: I heard that South Africa has crazy high import taxes. How are you working around that?
A: (Okay, nobody has actually asked me that question, but let me explain.) South Africa's import taxes are really high. Fifty percent for shoes. That means we would have to pay ten dollars per pair of shoe, just to take them into the country. We've spent the last few months trying to locate a non-profit organization (NPO) to act as importer-receiver. (The first one fell through, so we've been scrambling to find another one. . . that's why we took a little break promoting this project.) 

We finally found the perfect organization! We are partnering with the Big Tree Foundation and their Dress4Success program, so we won't have to pay the import fees. Because of this partnership, we will also be distributing some shoes in the Western Cape, to adhere to their mandate. 

Q: Can I just donate money instead?
A: Absolutely. You can give us cash, check, or donate to shoesforsouthafrica@gmail.com through our Paypal account. We will order the sizes of shoes that are most needed. 

Q: Can I have the shoes shipped straight to you so I don't have to order them and then turn around and pay for shipping again?
A: Yes! In fact, we've actually received a few pairs, shipped to us through 6pm.com anonymously. 

Q: So I can donate anonymously?
A: You bet. Of course, we'd love to be able to thank you for your generous donation, but if you like staying under the radar, that's fine too. 

Q: This is so awesome. Can I tell other people about it?
A: Yes! Please do! Feel free to post about it on your own blogs, share it on facebook, talk to your friends, neighbors, co-workers, relatives, or anyone else you think might want to participate. We only have three weeks and really need your help! Our donations have come from all sorts of people. Lucy's teacher at school was the first to donate, then an old friend from high school, and then a large donation from my neighbor's mother-in-law. This is a grassroots project and we'd love for everyone to pitch in. 

Q: Wouldn't that be cool if Converse donated shoes?
A: Yes, that's what we thought too. But so far, they haven't responded to my donation request. 

Q: Can you remind me again why I should support this project?
A: Here is a great answer, taken from Big Tree Foundation's website: 

The major challenges facing South Africa today are all related to poverty. The cycle of poverty continues to cause unending hardship for many people. This is exacerbated by the fact that many people do not have "marketable skills" that will allow them to generate a sustainable income. We believe that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. 

To create a culture of learning, one needs to be aware of the needs of children in rural communities. One of the common threads is the need for basic comfortable school clothing. How would you manage if you had to walk for more than 3 kilometers to school with shoes that are too small and no socks, or no shoes at all? Would you attend school? 

Take a look in your closet and in your kids' closets and count up how many pairs of shoes you have. Now imagine having none. When we first met Derrick, one of his most prized possessions was a bottle of lotion that he had received for his birthday. I know there are hundreds of fundraising projects out there and money doesn't grow on trees, but this is pretty unique, in that we are taking the pair of shoes that you contribute directly to a child in Africa. I promise you that each pair of shoes will make a difference in the life of the child who receives them. As an added bonus, we will be documenting our trip on this blog. Donating a pair of shoes will allow you to be an active participant in our trip. And we will be forever grateful to you for your support!


Kayli said...

Q: Can Derrick still sing and dance that AMAZINGLY?!?!?!!!

emily ballard said...

A: Haha. Not for the camera!

Gcobisa said...

Derrick had moves haha* looking forward to seeing you all.

Amanda said...

I am just surprised you are only accepting up to size 6. My son is only 9 yrs old and wears a 5.5 shoes already. And the taller you usually the bigger feet you have an many African children seem very tall. I just hate to see so many of the 11-12yr olds not get shoes b/c the sizes are not big enough?

Ruby Saunders said...

That shoe project is a unique programme and somewhat meaningful and memorable especially to people who were visited by the volunteers. Thanks for sharing such experience to the readers.