When Pink Sandals Pass for Glass Slippers
This past spring, I received a special request from Chelsea Thom, a photographer I knew through our May Earthkeepers Indie Artist, Chad Hollister. Chelsea was looking for children’s shoes to bring with her to the children of Africa. In Africa, many kids do not receive shoes until they are 5 or 6 years old and wearing them can help prevent horrible, disfiguring diseases like podoconiosis. As a member of Timberland’s Values Marketing team, I send product donations out from time to time, and of course agreed to help Chelsea find some shoes.
With the help of Amy Kennison from Timberland’s Kids Footwear department, we were able to gather a box of about 25 pairs of girls and boys shoes and sandals to send to the children. That may not sound like much, but getting shoes to Africa is not so easy. Chelsea could only take as many pairs as she could fit in her suitcase, and with some effort, she managed to fit them all.
It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that you’re helping complete strangers, which I had experienced when I sent apparel to Haiti. After packing up the box and sending it on it’s way to Chelsea, I started to think about the difference that these shoes might make for some child I’ll never meet. Would they smile or laugh when they put them on? Would the shoes fit?
When Chelsea returned from her trip, she sent me an email with a link to some of her photos, and for the first time since I started working at Timberland, I was able to see the faces of the individuals actually wearing our donated products. Chelsea shared the story of her travels with me, which led her to Kenya, where she ended up donating the shoes to local school children with the help of Comfort the Children International. Chelsea told me that the most memorable part of the shoe donation occurred while she was putting shoes on the feet of a girl who was nervous that they wouldn’t fit. After struggling to put them on, Chelsea fastened the shoes to the little girl’s feet – a perfect fit. Chelsea then told the girl, who now had a very large smile on her face, “You’re just like Cinderella.” Of course this child did not know who Cinderella was, but nevertheless it prompted a grin.
Here are some photos taken by Chelsea of the Kenyan children wearing their brand new Timberland shoes. Photo credit www.chelseadee.com