In 2004, Susan Chidley had a mini-stroke and was forced to retire temporarily from her job as a psychotherapist in private practice. During that time, she went on two medical mission trips; one to Zambia, Africa and one to Nicaragua, Central America.
After meeting the kids in Nicaragua, Susan knew she wanted to start her own non-profit to help the people there. She decided to start a charity in Nicaragua because it is the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere. Children there die from intestinal worms, malaria, tonsillitis, and infections, and there are many single mother families with a history of abuse, as well as absent fathers.
So Susan and a few Nicaraguan colleagues created an NGO in Nicaragua so that they could be recognized as a legitimate charity called Children Without Shoes International. The people on the ground in Nicaragua felt that the most pressing needs for the children in the rural villages were shoes and school uniforms, which are required to attend public schools. When kids don’t have shoes or school uniforms, they are ostracized for being poor and are also at a high risk for injuries and foot problems/diseases, such as worms. Sometimes they aren’t even allowed to attend school at all. The roads are dirt and covered in trash and broken glass, and shoes are necessary to avoid getting cuts and thus infections, which they also don’t have the resources to treat and can lead to death. Shoes can mean the difference between getting an education and not, and can help break the cycle of poverty.
Susan began returning every year to the town of Somoto, Nicaragua, and 5 rural villages nearby, to hand-deliver shoes to the 300 children in the area. Shoes don’t last that long and kids grow fast, so most kids get a new pair of shoes every year. She also hand delivers about 180 uniforms a year. She first finds out what sizes of shoes she needs for the kids and then the shoes are purchased in Nicaragua. Similarly, the uniforms are hand made by 4 women in the area who are paid by CWSI, thus creating a few jobs. Children Without Shoes International purchases the shoes and uniforms in Nicaragua to support the local economy.
Susan conducts one annual fundraising campaign in the states, asking friends and family to donate so she can purchase the shoes and uniforms – 100% of money raised goes right into CWSI projects. She travels to the villages every January for a week with her son (any longer is dangerous) to buy and personally deliver shoes to these 300 children in Nicaragua, giving close to 3,000 pairs of shoes and close to 2,000 uniforms in 10 years. They are funded entirely on individual donations and are all volunteer.
Susan went back to work as a psychotherapist but is now retired. She is a volunteer for Children Without Shoes International and spends about 15 hours a week on it most of the year, but during the fundraising campaigns it becomes a full time job.
CWSI has also partnered with another local NGO to help open a preschool in town for 80 kids. These villages have a high incidence of single mothers and abusive fathers, as well as the temptation of joining gangs for the kids. This free daycare allows the mothers to work outside their homes, and the mothers are also protected by the police and have counseling and group support for the abuse they’ve endured. CWSI believes that giving the children caring adult supervision early on will help the kids grow up to be productive adults and help them stay out of the gangs. On top of all of this Susan has also worked with Mothers Without Borders to build 2 wells (one in Nicaragua and one in Zambia) to provide clean water.
Children Without Shoes International
P.O. Box 101042
Denver, CO 80250-1041