In PNR Taguig, the community of shanties where most Mano Amiga students live, majority of the population live on less than a dollar a day and a sturdy pair of shoes is a luxury most families cannot afford. Children running barefoot are an ordinary sight and slippers are not replaced until the soles are completely torn open. Siblings close in age often take turns wearing a pair of worn-out shoes to school.
It’s an all too common scenario that happens in every impoverished community in the world. In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie saw how children in Argentina often played outside without anything to protect their feet from skin infection, diseases and injury. This moved him to start TOMS, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. It became known as the One for One movement.
TOMS received overwhelming support and has given shoes to rural and urban communities in different parts of the world- Argentina, Ethiopia, and most recently, the Philippines.
To help the children from the PNR community, Mano Amiga Academy, in collaboration with TOMS and Philippine based group WE international, organized a shoe-giving event in the school last September 16. Each student received a new pair of TOMS footwear.
Mano Amiga volunteers also organized a fun workshop for the kids to teach them the importance of wearing shoes, particularly in preventing soil-transmitted diseases that could cause long-term physical and cognitive harm.
“We feel incredibly fortunate that our community was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the program,” Mano Amiga Development Director Lynn Pinugu said. “The long-lasting pair of shoes is a powerful intervention to help keep the children healthy, allowing them to stay in school and work hard for a brighter future.”
One such child is Johnny Canares, 8, who experienced wearing new shoes for the first time. Before his TOMS pair, he had always worn hand-me-downs that his 5 older brothers had outgrown.
“I love my shoes. They smell nice and they feel so soft,” he said with a proud smile. “I’m going to wear them everywhere!”