On May 10th, Belmont Hill students successfully participated in TOMS’s One Day Without Shoes. Started in 2008, the program promises one free pair of shoes to a child in an impoverished country for every Instagram photo with the hashtag “WithoutShoes.” With the help of notable celebrities including Alison Brie and P!nk, TOMS donated a reported 27,435 pairs of shoes.
This year, Alessandro Zenati ‘16 helped to bring One Day Without Shoes to our campus for the first time. Zenati says that he had recently become interested in the way that social enterprise has affected industry, especially the retail industry. “TOMS has established a strong track record for leading initiatives that positively impact the lives of disadvantaged individuals in developing countries around the world,” says Zenati. While browsing their website, Zenati came across their most popular initiative: One Day Without Shoes. The purpose of TOMS’s initiative is to raise awareness for children’s health and education. By supplying shoes to those who do not have access to suitable footwear, TOMS has a strong impact on their 10 target countries. In India, access to shoes helps many impoverished kids complete their school uniform, increasing the chances of regular attendance. In Jordan, TOMS has given over two million brand new pairs of shoes to displaced childrens, usually Syrian refugees. Kenya is currently facing a problem with jiggers, a burrowing sand flea that burrows into the bare feet of its human hosts. Shoes supplied to Kenya have helped in the fight against the eradication of these fleas. One Day Without Shoes is only one of TOMS’s many programs. Their website boasts a variety of programs through their One for One campaign, a program which aims to provide safe births, prevent bullying, and improve access to water.
On the 10th, the Chapel lawn was filled with students of all grades without shoes, enjoying the warm weather. For an entire X Block, many took a break from school to raise awareness for children in need around the world. Students tossed frisbees, played backgammon, and, most importantly, posted pictures with the hashtag “WithoutShoes.” Although it may have seemed like just fun and games, the event helped to get many students thinking about the harsh realities of kids worldwide. When asked if he considered the event a success, Zenati replied, “Absolutely. It was the first event of its kind at Belmont Hill, and I was happy to see so many people join the initiative. As a result, I believe this can be an annual event.”