April 3, 2019
The dawn of spring often brings travel plans for millions of people around the country. Eager to beat the winter blues or take advantage of school breaks, many of us pack our bags and head to sunny vacation destinations. Spotting an exotic capuchin monkey while hiking the rainforest in Costa Rica, swaying to the reggae beat in Jamaica, snorkeling the clear blue waters of The Bahamas—a well-deserved break in a paradise on earth.
Coincidentally, these are also places Soles4Souls visits thanks to your support for a different reason—to bring relief to those in poverty. And it never ceases to amaze us that behind such beauty lurks the painful reality of life on the fringes. These are the communities that don’t make it onto our itineraries, yet often sit steps behind our villas. We could drive 100 times down the main roads and never even know what lies beyond. Until we take the time to look. Really look.
Realizing, for instance, that despite having the lowest poverty rate in Central America, 20% of the Costa Rican population earns less than $155 per month. Tucked behind the lush tropical greenery are children, many of them refugees from neighboring Nicaragua, barely surviving in barren slums untouched by tourism dollars. They brave serious crime on the way to school for the faint promise of an education. And they can’t attend without shoes, which means they’re forced to improvise.“Kids often wear the same pair of shoes year after year no matter how beaten or how much their feet have grown,” reflects one of our travel coordinators. “They’re so used to curling their toes up against their shoes that when we fit them with a new pair in the right size, at first they feel too big.”
Understanding also that not everyone in The Bahamas has time to island hop, much less benefit from a booming industry nestled colorfully in larger-than-life resorts. For children growing up in communities like Bain Town, especially those of Haitian descent, a daily meal is not guaranteed, much less a proper pair of shoes to protect them from injuries and soil-borne diseases. Here, the disenfranchised hold on tightly to Marley’s one love, one heart. As 13-year-old Falyn reflected after receiving a very personal gift of shoes from our team leader, “Love is something that, if you give it away, you end up having more.” That’s the power of a pair of shoes.
Concluding that even the best Jerk chicken and Blue Mountain coffee can’t mask the unsavory challenges some Jamaicans face. Not the rich who thrive in abundance, but the poor who endure the squalor of limited resources. Receiving your gift of shoes provides them hope and dignity, respites from a hard existence. The principal at one of our distribution schools said it all as she proclaimed with a sigh of relief, “I’m so happy you’re here. Today’s going to be a good day.” Your donation today means more good days tomorrow.
Of course, we don’t have to travel that far south to uncover the extremes of the haves and have nots. Poverty has a nasty habit of sneaking around even the wealthiest corners of the U.S.Take Nashville, the city of our headquarters. We’ll welcome lots of visitors in the coming months eager to enjoy the piercing honky-tonk fiddle. And though many will take home a pair or two of our famed cowboy boots, locals like Paula bear the pain of five-year-old torn soles. While receiving a brand new pair of shoes she simply said, “I’m very grateful.”
It’s been a long winter and we all need a little break. We hope you’ll enjoy the season and its promise of new possibilities. But as you do, please take some time to continue looking deeper for those experiencing the realities of poverty. Since 2006, you’ve helped us deliver more than 35 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries and all 50 U.S. states. Every dollar you donate to Soles4Souls means we can provide one more child living in a slum in Costa Rica, or The Bahamas, or Jamaica—or perhaps even in your own backyard—a new pair of shoes that will keep them healthy and in school. As simple as it sounds, your gift can change their lives. And just like spring, it can renew their faith in better things to come.