Steps in the right direction
Sarah Jessica Parker nailed the point with a stiletto: good shoes are better than a bad love affair and great shoes can outlast love itself.
But while many women fantasise about owning a trophy set of sparkly Jimmy Choos, the reality for most South Africans, particularly children, is that a plain pair of shoes remains a luxury.
A spate of business initiatives is starting to make strides towards creating local employment and providing children who have not had their own shoes with snug new footwear.
For Octavia Msani (42) shoes have provided a way to help raise her three children, plus the two she adopted when her sister died of Aids.
Msani started hand-stitching moccasins for Soul of Africa, a non-profit organisation based in Durban and subsidised by Froggie Shoes.
A former part-time domestic worker, Msani is a sample chaser in the factory’s pattern department. She says: “I desperately needed money. At the same time I heard about Soul of Africa and the work it does.
“Thanks to it I can make my way in life now.
Shoes make our lives easier.”
Soul of Africa also raises money to house, feed and educate Aids orphans — R7-million since its founding in 2004. Its shoes are hand-stitched by 60 previously unemployed women from KwaZulu-Natal. The SeaÂview factory produces up to 350 pairs a day.
Soul of Africa shoes are sold in the more than 60 Froggie outlets in South Africa, as well as at 400 Clark’s outlets in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand and Australia.
“The response overseas is enormous,” says Sarah Gedye, the co-owner of Michelle Footwear, which manufactures the Froggie brand. “We export 70% of the shoes and we are constantly getting new orders.”
Shepherd’s Keep, a home on the Bluff for abandoned babies, some with HIV, receives funding from the Soul of Africa donor programme. Colin Pratley, the Shepherd’s Keep founder, is delighted.
“The money we receive is earmarked for our medical centre and the high-care equipment we need to care for the abandoned children we find.”
Prudence Mwandla, founder of the Khulani Children’s Shelter in Durban, says the shelter uses the money from Soul of Africa to buy food for their orphaned children every month: “Their support means a lot to us, it covers all our food expenses.”
Toms Shoes, a US-based company, takes a different, but no less imaginative, approach to improving quality of life through shoes.
Toms’s policy is simple: each time one of its customers buys a pair of its shoes, the company donates a pair.
Last year 50 000 South African children received new shoes through the Toms’s programme.
Blake Mycoskie, president of Toms Shoes, says he was touched by the suffering of people in some of the rural areas in South Africa when he travelled the country five years ago.
“I decided to do something active to help.”
Toms partnered Food4Africa to target areas where children are in desperate need of shoes. From November last year shoes were dropped off at community centres and local charity distribution networks from Hluhluwe to Soweto.
Toms Shoes co-founder Alejo Nitti went along for the experience.
“The joy on the children’s faces when they receive their first pair of shoes is unbelievable. A little girl started dancing and running when we gave her shoes. Her whole face lit up with excitement.”