In 1999, Mona Purdy traveled through Central America, and saw children painting tar on the soles of their bare feet so they could run a race during their village’s festival. She met an American orthopedic surgeon who was visiting the village who told her that if these children had shoes to wear, there would be a lot less need for him to regularly travel to the region to perform amputations of children’s infected limbs. It was really very simple.
When Mona got home, she visited neighborhood schools and asked families to donate any used children’s shoes they might have. She collected some and brought them to an orphanage in Honduras. She figured she’d done a good deed and that her work was done. When she was about to leave, one of the workers at the orphanage asked,”When are you coming back?”
The question changed Mona’s life.
Soon, more schools became involved. Word traveled. Church groups. Scout troops. Civic organizations. The shoe drives began to attract attention. First newspapers. Then, radio. Television. The shoes began pouring in from all over the country, filling Mona’s garage, basement, and driveway. Thousands and thousands of pairs. It soon became clear that the Share Your Soles movement was spreading faster than Mona could have ever imagined. Before long, Mona faced some critical decisions. Shoes would go to the most desperately needy people she could possibly reach. That meant enlisting the aid of shippers and airlines. Government agencies. Embassies. Small businesses. Government officials. Consulates. Major corporations. Shoes were given in a way that respected and honored the dignity of those who received them. Sanitized with hot water and bleach. Polished. Sorted. Those with holes, tears, excessive wear? Discarded. Every person who receives a pair of shoes gets a clean pair in good condition. They do not receive garbage.
Since then, Share Your Soles has brought over two million pairs of shoes to desperately impoverished people throughout the world: Central America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, Eastern Europe and the United States. Their program has helped people living on Native American Reservations and in the Appalachias, as well as India, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Cameroon, Nicaragua, Tanzania and Ghana. No boundaries. No borders.
Share Your Soles is not a political organization. They have no religious affiliation. They do not claim to know the causes of poverty throughout the world. They only know it exists, and they do what they can to help.