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One Day Without Shoes

Gregory Van Gestel | April 5, 2012

One Day Without Shoes

April 10th marks this year’s One Day Without Shoes (ODWS) campaign put on annually by TOMS shoes. The point of this day is to spread awareness regarding the importance shoes have for a child in developing countries. The campaign forwards this concept through a simple ideology: by taking off your shoes for one day, it will ultimately spark curiosity, lead to conversation, spread awareness and hopefully lead to action and change.

Millions of children across the globe live without shoes, making them susceptible to injury, disease, and even preventing them from going to school, as many schools require shoes as part of the uniform. For this reason, TOMS’ one-for-one policy looks to provide these children with free shoes, as for every pair of shoes they sell they give a free pair to a child in need. Through this, they hope to better the lives of children in developing countries as with shoes, children can gain an education, will be healthy, and therefore will be more successful and have greater opportunities.

TOMS however has not stopped there; while they continually give out thousands of pairs of free shoes in over twenty countries, they have also begun a similar campaign with sunglasses and giving the gift of sight. For each pair of glasses sold, they promise to give sight to one person in the developing world – whether through free prescription glasses, medical treatment or even surgery. This has profound effects in improving peoples lives as well as lifestyles, for obvious reasons. TOMS also pairs up with various charities and non-profit organizations in order to distribute shoes, as well as combining efforts to offer more comprehensive community support and aid.

While this all sounds wonderful, it is important to note that TOMS is in fact a for-profit company and their ODWS campaign can be viewed as a truly successful marketing scheme. The gift of free shoes can also be critiqued as many argue that introducing free aid from the west threatens local businesses. On top of this, the campaigning can also be viewed as a short term solution as it simply provides relief to a symptom of a larger issue: poverty.

Yet while critiques surround the ODWS campaign, I believe that it is a good cause for a number of reasons. Most notably is the example it sets for other businesses through its own business ideology. While TOMS is a for-profit business, it maintains a one-for-one policy. This is truly amazing. How wonderful would it be if numerous businesses worldwide adopted this? They would not only still be focusing on making profits and being successful, but at the same time they would be helping and aiding those in need. The business strategy adopted by TOMS is profound. Yes, it’s a business, but it is one that cares and continues to help out while still striving to make profits. On top of this, their campaign is a truly successful marketing strategy as well.

While many may critique TOMS and their ODWS campaign, I encourage you to support it because it makes an impact on children’s and families’ lives in developing countries and its intentions are good. It partners with local initiatives as well and looks to give the gift of shoes as well as sight to those who need it. These gifts are not simply material though, as they lead to education, health and essentially improved livelihood and opportunity. More powerfully however, the entire company and campaign sets an example for others with a revolutionary business model that, if spread, could have tremendously great impacts. Combining business and charity in a one-for-one scheme or even something along those lines would, I think, be a great step forward.

So this April 10th, go without shoes so they don’t have to, and raise awareness.

Media Credits:  Online @ The Athenaeum | The Athenaeum Newspaper