The past month has been an absolute blur for me, filled with more excitement, sadness, anger, and sheer joy than I have ever felt in my life. Africa, I will miss you!
As part of TOMS latest Shoe Drop, I traveled with friends, family, TOMS staff and so many other AMAZING people to South Africa. Over a 30 days period, we crisscrossed the country – driving, and flying, and pretty much always moving – from Johannesburg, to Port Elizabeth to Durban to many small villages and townships along the way. In total, we hand delivered 50,000 shoes to kids in need! We met these children in orphanages, schools, community centers, and along the side of the road.
I have so many moments that I would like to share with you, but before I do so, I would like to spotlight the experiences of other volunteers on the trip:
“Today we went to a school for the disabled and discovered it was the first school of its kind in the entire region. There are over 1,000 disabled kids on record for this area and estimates suggest there are many many more thousands who are unaccounted for. Only 22 of them get to go to school. That is where we went. At some point there was a miscommunication and we only ended up with 2 sizes of shoes at the school. We were trying to make it work and I went to this one boy in a wheelchair who had, quite simply, the most horrific feet I've ever seen. It was obvious no person had touched his feet to clean them in many months. I had a moment of panic when I saw them and a compulsive need to cover them with shoes. The size 10 was so tight I couldn't get it on but that was all we had. When I looked up at the boy I realized that, though he couldn't speak, he wanted those shoes far worse than I wanted to give them. The internal panic was overwhelming as I stretched and pulled on the seams of this stupid shoe in order to make it fit. By the time it finally got on his feet my heart was beating out of my chest and I was covered in sweat. But I looked up and his eyes were as joyful as any I've ever seen… I'll never forget that moment as long as I live."
“The last place we went today was a house run by a woman who feeds close to 400 of the village’s children. These children receive porridge that has the vitamins and nutrients that they need. Without these meals twice a day, the children would have nothing to eat. When we drove away from the village, a little girl came down the rocky hill wearing her little red-and-white stripe TOMS. I thought about snapping a picture with my camera, but no camera was needed. The moment was priceless… We are giving these children shoes, but they are giving us so much more. I can only hope that every day will be as memorable as today!”
I would like to give a shout out to Esther Havens for taking the photographs below... and capturing so many of images, thoughts and feelings that I could never describe in words. You can see more of Esther's stuff on myspace at http://www.myspace.com/estherhavensphotography.