21 days of change at WT has come to an end; the last event on the calendar was the Hawk Nelson concert and the a lecture from TOMS shoes Blake Mycoskie. Both of which were great presentations and definitely worth watching. When all the events started in April, we had just recently come back from Cambodia; this being the case we all had a newfound interest of researching the organizations that WT would be partnering with. A great experience in itself, because we got to practice what we learned about during our stay in Cambodia.
After doing our reading and researching, it got to the point where we had to make a personal decision on whether we thought these non-profits were impacting people in a greater way, rather than just handing out free materials to them. Based on the information that we gathered up, most of us had a pretty solid decision on whether we would or wouldn’t support a foundation. One that I really spent some time on was TOMS shoes.
I read over six different blogs, that had both positive and negative outlooks. I also went onto the website and looked around at their annual report. I really liked most of what I saw, the ONE for ONE program that they have is really an extraordinary program. The shoes that are given away are modified according to what is better fit for the weather conditions in the country in which the shoes are given away in. In the places where the rainy season is longer than the dry season, the shoes are mostly made of rubber, to keep childrens’ feet from getting too wet. They are producing shoes in 3 different countries, which is very good news for the economy in those places, because of the jobs that are being created by the huge demand of TOMS shoes. And by huge, I mean immense demand, the world has gone on a TOMS craze. Personally, I don’t care too much for the shoes, they just don’t look too comfortable.
Blake is a great person and an even better businessman. His idea of ONE for ONE has people very intrigued and its pretty amazing to see how America alone has taken a step forward in taking the opportunities to help people from different countries. But I don’t necessarily agree with everything that TOMS shoes is doing. They are giving away hundreds of shoes away every day, and that’s great for the people that are receiving them, but I don’t think that this a long term solution to their problems at all. All of these shoes are being given away but what about the people who are making a living by making and selling shoes their in the community. In a sense they are hurting the economy and running the risk of creating a dependency from all the free handouts. One of the blogs that I read, was written from a young man who had been in the Peace Corp for two years. During his time in a developing country, he had a really interesting experience with a family in that village. The man he talked to was boasting about his iPhone, yet his children didn’t own a pair of shoes. When asked why they weren’t wearing shoes, his response was because the White People hadn’t come to give them shoes yet. He was referring to the World Vision volunteers that gave shoes away back in 1998.
We have to remember that TOMS isn’t an NGO, rather a shoe company so we can’t really hold them accountable for the same things that we would expect from a non-profit, but I think that it’s very important that people still be informed of the impacts that TOMS is making on the people that they are helping. Keeping in mind that the example above won’t always be the case, there is a risk of people assuming that they will always be provided with a pair of shoes. I think that TOMS shoes should be very careful and responsible when giving things away, especially when the company has gained so much popularity in the past years. With giving comes a huge responsibility and thats one thing that we all need to keep in mind regardless of the situation.
While Blake was here he spoke about the expansion of this ONE for ONE program, which I’m quite excited about. Blake has already created a movement unlike any other and I am really looking forward to seeing what else he is planning on doing. His company has helped people all around the world become involved and has raised awareness on the poverty that consumes most developing countries.