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Building Blocks

The following is the story of Ginette Derisier from Haiti, one of many individuals profiled in the forthcoming book, Shoestrings: How Your Donated Shoes and Clothes Help People Pull Themselves Out of Poverty, by Soles4Souls President and CEO Buddy Teaster.

Not long ago, Ginette Derisier and her family were struggling to survive.

Before 2010, Haiti was already the poorest country in the northern hemisphere. After the 2010 earthquake, the deficit of adequate, affordable housing was significantly exacerbated. Finding steady work to bring in enough income to support a family is hard to come by.

Ginette, her husband and four boys built a small makeshift shed to call home. Meals were few, education was occasional and access to medical care was non-existent.

She was one of what the World Bank estimates to be roughly 767 million people in the world living on less than $1.90 a day. Dedicated to working hard to support her family, but lacking access to sustainable employment opportunities.

Women like Ginette are exactly who our micro-enterprise operations at Soles4Souls were designed to empower. 

The outside of Ginette’s outdoor kitchen.

Ginette’s outdoor kitchen

The small make-shift home where Ginette, her husband and four children live


“Before, I was selling rice, beans, oil in the marketplace,” said Ginette Derisier. “But with those things, you really don’t see much of a profit. And then I had a friend suggest, ‘Hey, why don’t you try to sell shoes and see if you could do better for yourself?’”

These shoes are those which generous volunteers, retailers and manufacturers donate to Soles4Souls as part of our micro-enterprise program. We work with non-profit partners in emerging nations around the globe to help fund programs and help people step out of poverty.

For example, our work with the Haitian American Caucus (HAC) helps women entrepreneurs start and sustain small businesses selling new and gently-worn shoes in the marketplace.

“First and foremost, the shoes that we get at HAC [provided by Soles4Souls] are top quality, and it’s not too far from where we live. If not for that, then we have to go very far away to purchase shoes and the quality is just as not as good,” she explained.


Repurposed shoes have the potential to result in food, shelter and education for someone in need in places like Haiti. For example, just one pair of gently-worn shoes sold by an entrepreneur can provide up to five meals for a family.

“Now, by selling shoes, I’m able to support myself, support my family,” said Ginette. “I’m able to send my third son to school, and to help my husband out when things are tough on his end.”


“When I first got started, I was only able to buy one box [of about 100 pairs]. Now, I’m able to buy three, four, sometimes five boxes, said Ginette. “The reason I like purchasing shoes from HAC is because whenever I purchase shoes there, I am sure to make a profit.”

She gestured toward the house rising nearby.


Shoes donated by our volunteers have helped build a new home and a new future for Ginette and her family—disrupting the cycle of poverty. But for Ginette and hundreds of other women just like her their continued success depends on more shoes.

“I have this construction on a new house that I’ve started, that’s taking me some time. If I had a more consistent supply of shoes, I’d be able to finish the construction of my house much, much sooner,” she said.

“Also, my son just entered university this year and is supposed to be there for five years. So with a constant supply of shoes, in five years, my son would be graduating from university.” The pride on her face spoke volumes.

“I’m going to pray that the people in the United States understand the real impact of shoes. They help my family a lot. If they continue to send shoes, I guarantee you, in about a year, year and a half, my house will be finished.”

Then Ginette turned to me.

“I’m so embarrassed to think I’m standing out here in this hot sun. The next time you guys come, I’ll be able to receive you in my house and not outside here in the sun.”