A South African charity is taking on the challenge of making sure underprivileged children across the continent have at least one good pair of shoes.
The Put Foot Foundation, a proudly South African public beneficiary organisation (PBO) and non-profit charity, was founded by former Springbok rugby player Bob Skinstad. It is dedicated to giving hope, pride and dignity to underprivileged rural children through owning their own pair of new, quality school shoes.
The organisation believes that shoes are symbolic of pride and give confidence to young people so that they can walk to school in comfort and confidence.
In its mission statement, the organisation explains that “shoes are also a vital protection barrier between our children’s tiny soles and Africa’s rough and unforgiving terrain”.
Together with his co-founders, social entrepreneur Daryn Hillhouse and digital communications expert Mike Sharman, Skinstad says the organisation is focused on addressing the needs of rural areas in South Africa and across the rest of Africa that have been overlooked by other charities and NGOs.
“We believe that there is no greater experience than providing our donors with the opportunity to experience the impact that their donations have made possible. That is why we invite and strongly encourage our donors to take part in the life-changing experience of gifting a brand-new pair of school shoes to a young, underprivileged child,” Skinstad writes on the Put Foot website.
During its annual Put Foot Rally across Southern Africa, volunteers deliver thousands of shoes to rural school children. In June 2017, the Rally visited communities in South Africa, Namibia and Zambia, delivering over 2,000 pairs of shoes; 500 children in Otjiwarongo, Namibia each received a pair of unique Shoes That Grow footwear.
Shoes That Grow, invented by American Kenton Lee, is a sandal-type shoe that can be adjusted for size and comfort, and grow with the children’s feet, lasting up to five years. Lee works with a number of international charities to distribute shoe donations to Ecuador, Haiti and countries across Africa.
Meanwhile, Put Foot is also edging closer to its 2017 goal of raising R1-million, which will mean more rallies around Africa and more shoes for the continent’s children.
Put Foot volunteer Brent Lindeque took part in a recent Put Foot rally in Zambia: “I met Audrey, an 8-year-old who had never owned a new pair of shoes. Every single piece of clothing she had ever worn was a hand-me-down or second-hand donation that had been given to her … [we] got to give Audrey her first pair of new shoes ever. Fighting back the tears she smiled and told me that one day she would make enough money to give underprivileged kids the things that she hasn’t been able to afford in her life.”
CliffCentral radio personality Lindeque runs the feel-good news website, Good Things Guy.
“Those who can afford it,” Lindque writes on his website, “take shoes for granted … but these kids don’t have that choice and to see the joy they get from a simple act of kindness is too good not to share.”
In addition to their shoe donations, Put Foot is involved in wildlife conservation, particularly rhino protection. The group has donated more than R500,000 for the protection of Africa’s most endangered animals, including rhinos, the Hartmann’s mountain zebra and the African wild cat.
Put Foot also helps other Section 18A organisations with similar objectives, including Habitat for Humanity and corporate fundraising.
But the main focus is on getting those shoes on feet, and the organisation is continually seeking out donations and volunteers to help sustain its success. No contribution is too small, says Put Foot, which welcomes individual and organisation donations.
For more information on the work of Put Foot and to find out how you can help, visit the official Put Foot website and join the conversation on its social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where you can also watch video of the Put Foot volunteers in action.
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