Call for a Day Without Shoes & Without Dignity

TOMS shoe, vegan green

Next week, on April 5, is a day when the humanitarian cobblers at TOMS Shoes call upon folks around the country to participate in a Day Without Shoes.

Here’s what TOMS Shoes’ founder Blake Mycoskie’s says in the Huffington Post:

I think sometimes we forget what we have, and occasionally it’s important to remind ourselves. Most people don’t even realize how many children in developing countries grow up barefoot and all the risks, infections and diseases they endure…. I wanted everyone to personally understand the impact of shoes, and the difference they can make, so we thought, “Why don’t we get a taste of what these kids go through every day?”

As a counterpoint, and to make a point, Saundra Schimmelpfennig at Good Intentions are Not Enough is calling for a Day Without Dignity to accompany the TOMS Day Without Shoes event.

On or about that same day, Schimmelpfennig is calling on aid workers, the diaspora and people from areas that receive donated shoe drops and other forms of charity to speak up in blogs, on twitter, or at school.

She suggests stories or essays for a Day Without Dignity on topics such as:

  • Poor people’s memories of childhood and what their actual needs were
  • The dignity and control that comes from work and not from receiving handouts
  • The glut of unnecessary donated goods
  • Whites in Shining Armor swooping in to “save” people
  • What it really takes to raise awareness, more than just walking barefoot
  • The problems created by handing out shoes or other goods
  • The issue of dignity and how we portray people in our advertising campaigns
  • How doing something because it feels good doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do

As you may have guessed, Saundra is not a big fan of TOMS Shoes, or of most donated goods as a form of aid. For a much more detailed and lengthy discussion on this issue, go here.

I kind of like going barefoot, depending upon the weather, and know that many poor folks do suffer for lack of shoes. Yet I also think Saundra makes some good and important points about the naivete of our approach to fighting poverty. If it’s nice out, maybe I’ll go without shoes to symbolize my lack of decisiveness.

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About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.