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Together, We Can Break the Cycle of Poverty

One in five children in developing countries survive on $1.90/day. That’s nearly 385 million girls and boys living in extreme poverty worldwide. Imagine the faces behind these numbers, each bearing a burden far beyond their years. They lack all the basics we often take for granted, including a proper pair of shoes. And because they’re still growing, these shortfalls create serious consequences for their futures.

That’s why helping children break free from the cycle of poverty is a priority for Soles4Souls. Because a simple pair of shoes can provide them an opportunity for a better life. Be it by helping their parents earn an income through small used shoe businesses. Or through disaster relief by restoring their sense of hope amidst great loss. Or through free distributions by proving them brand new shoes that protect them from injuries and diseases, and keep them in school (as shoes are often required). This is how your gift of shoes, over 35 million since 2006, helps a generation step out of poverty. $1=1 pair.

The thing about children is that they grow up and grow old.

Like 71-years-young Oscar. He was one of the 385 million, born into extreme poverty in Chiquimula, a village built within a garbage dump in Guatemala. He didn’t get many opportunities, so he did the best he could, working the fields day and night to survive. He’s never left and never will. And although the years have taken their toll, the spirit of a child still lives within.

Our team met that child during a very special shoe distribution this past summer. The day began with an open air community breakfast of tamales (dough stuffed with meat and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves), a treat even the wealthy reserve for special occasions. Thanks to our local partner, there was plenty of food left after the children ate, so they extended the meal to their parents. But Oscar didn’t join in. He sat quietly on a white plastic chair a short distance away under the shade of a tree, watching the day unfold. He finally accepted some rolls, a few of them, which he placed gently in his bag.

After cleanup and playtime, it was time to deliver a more lasting gift: shoes. And Oscar continued to observe seemingly content, expecting nothing for himself. Tired but resolved, he followed the entire process from afar: the ritual washing of the feet, determining the right size, finding the perfect pair. And his smile grew bigger with every pair of shoes fitted, all 125, thanks to you who support this mission.

When all were served, our team leader approached him once more. “Would you like a pair of shoes?” she asked. And that’s when the child of years past came back to life.

She knelt before Oscar, removed the old sandals he’d crafted from discarded tires and held his weathered feet in her hands. “Oh, where these feet have taken him over the years!” she thought. “The experiences they have lived. The hardships they must’ve overcome to sit in front of me on this day.” She then slipped on a brand new pair of bright orange tennis shoes.

Oscar rose unassumingly from his chair, energy renewed. He thanked our team and disappeared into the horizon, a new pair of shoes helping him put his best foot forward for what lies ahead.