Barefoot for a Cause

TOMS One Day Without Shoes 3

HPU students Jonah Winkler, Lindsay Gilley, Gwena Pitt and Ellen Barker stand barefoot in front of the ODWS banner.

HIGH POINT, N.C., May 1, 2014 – For many, going barefoot isn’t a choice. For students at High Point University, living One Day Without Shoes is a conscious decision to join TOMS Shoes in a bigger movement to raise global awareness for the children around the world that don’t have basic footwear.

“The purpose of One Day Without Shoes (ODWS) is to be a statement and get people talking,” says senior Ellen Barker, president of the HPU TOMS chapter. “If people see you walking around barefoot with something painted on your feet, obviously you’re doing it for a particular reason.”

This year, the chapter held ODWS on the same day as the campus’ Earth Day celebration. The HPU TOMS chapter sold near 50 T-shirts to promote the event beforehand. Volunteers painted the TOMS logo on participants’ feet and led a barefoot march around campus. The chapter also distributed a pocket-sized card filled with these staggering facts about the hazards of living without shoes:

  • In the Philippines, 30,000 people live in just one landfill, where children walk over broken glass, syringes and debris each day;
  • Podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease caused by living barefoot in volcanic soil, affects 4,000,000 people in at least 15 different countries;
  • Burrowing fleas, called jiggers, cause painful lesions and infect 1,890,000 Kenyan children; and
  • The soil-transmitted parasite hookworm affects 740,000,000 people, causing intestinal pain, weakness and cognitive impairment.
TOMS One Day Without Shoes 2

A volunteer paints the TOMS logo on a student’s feet.

Last summer, Barker traveled to Nicaragua with TOMS to hand-deliver shoes to children in need. “It was really awesome, being able to see the club’s mission come full circle,” she says. “I’d like to start my own business that incorporates giving like TOMS does. That’s the main thing I love about the company – it is a for-profit business, but they have that social responsibility aspect, which makes it more sustainable than just donating money.”

ODWS is not just about the shoes, though. Providing children with school uniforms – which often include shoes – can increase school attendance by 62 percent. When shoes are integrated into programs with larger community development goals, they empower children and their families to get the care and support they need.

Sophomore Gwena Pitt, a member of Alpha Phi Omega service group, will be the new chapter president starting this fall. “I’ve always been interested in the company. I love their shoes and I love the whole mission of TOMS. Helping people is something I really want to continue to do, and this is a great way to make that happen.”

ODWS is the campus chapter’s main event of the academic year. Pitt plans to organize another awareness event in the upcoming fall semester as she begins her term as chapter president.

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