Q & A

Please note: We are taking an extended break (until further notice) from the operations of collecting and redistributing shoes.

There are no plans at this time to run another shoe collection.


Your questions answered

How are the shoes distributed once they arrive into the country?

In Australia we work in partnership with local program managers to support Indigenous programs in Australia including Port Adelaide Football Club and South Australian Nunga Netball. In 2015 we have also provided shoes to the Northern Domestic Violence Service (NDVS) and the Australian Refugee Association.

Internationally, Soles4Souls Australia (The Butterfly Movement Ltd.) works in partnership with global charity Soles4Souls (based in the USA). Together with this partnership we work with various organisations, including international non-profits, who distribute the shoes to those in need.

Shoes are distributed in various ways including one-off gifts to individuals and multiple shoes to individuals for micro-enterprise. (see more on micro-enterprise below).

Soles4Souls also run more than 20 travel trips each year taking volunteers into the countries (inc. Tanzania, Haiti, India, Costa Rica & Peru) to distribute the shoes.

Soles4Souls Australia provide opportunities for Australian volunteers to distribute shoes in Tanzania each year – visit http://soles4souls.com.au/tanzania/travel/. To register your interest please email info@soles4souls.com.au 

How do the shoes help people?

Individual level: Shoes prevent parasite infections and also prevent cuts which can become infected (e.g. tetanus). Parasites and infections cause multiple health problems and impact school attendance, work opportunities and good health which leads to poor growth and development.

Micro-enterprise: In Tanzania, Togo and Haiti Soles4Souls educate people in micro-enterprise and assist them in becoming self-sustaining through setting up a shoe business which they run at their local markets. This approach helps to give them a hand-up which is critical in development.

More than half of the shoes donated are used in micro-enterprise initiatives.

What is micro-enterprise?

Micro-enterprise is small business. Through the provision of shoes to local small-business men and women they are able to operate their own business which they run at the local markets. This provides them with an income and a future which gives them hope. It is more than just a job.

Why focus on shoes when there are so many other issues within these countries?

Shoes play an important role in health promotion and the prevention of parasitic infections and disease.

One of the parasites found in Africa for example are jiggers. Jiggers or the chigoe flea (Tunga penetrans) is a parasitic arthropod found in most tropical and sub-tropical climates. Jiggers live in soil and sand, and feed on warm-blooded hosts such as humans, cattle, sheep, dogs, mice, and other animals.

Some sources also express a link between jiggers and HIV / Aids as unsterilised equipment is often used to remove the bugs from different people. It was noted that many people share a single pin to extract jiggers – this is a situation that exposes individuals to the infection of HIV from those who already have the virus.

Also, with little to no access to clean water or a doctor open wounds become easily infected, which if left untreated can be deadly.

Does providing shoes undermine their culture or economy?

Shoes are most often not worn because they are not accessible. We are strategic with our partnerships to ensure what is provided is what is needed and wanted in a way which protects the individual and their country. Additionally, the micro-enterprise programs help to support employment and therefore the economy.

What are the environmental impacts?

In Australia we often have shoes which are prematurely sent to landfill. By donating shoes to Soles4Souls Australia the shoes are saved from prematurely arriving in landfill in Australia and are given a second life, providing comfort and opportunities to others.

How does the influx of shoes impact the landfill within the countries the shoes are sent?

It is very common practice within these countries that items such as shoes are used until they cannot be salvaged further. While there may come a time when they will no longer be of use their life span is long and the benefits of the shoes will far outweigh any additional rubbish.

How much does it cost to ship a container of shoes to the developing countries?

The direct cost of shipping a 40 foot container of shoes in Tanzania is $8,500. In addition to this there are a large number of costs involved including the purchase of bags and sewing machine thread for packing the shoes, mandatory insurance costs and the employment costs of employing people with disabilities in South Australia in the sorting and packing of the donated shoes.

Each 40 foot shipping container can hold approximately 24,000 pairs of shoes. We calculate that for every $100 donation made to Soles4Souls Australia, positive social change is created through the distribution of 50 pairs of shoes to people in need of life supporting footwear. This does not include basic and fundamental administration costs.

How is this paid for?

The cost of our first containers of shoes were covered by Soles4Souls. To support the shipping and re-distribution of donated shoes we ask for gift’s from our community.

YOUR GIFT will change lives by covering the transport & distribution costs of reaching worthy children, families and adults in our global community in need of your help.

For every $50 gift, you create positive social change by providing 25 pairs of shoes to people like you in need of life supporting protection and new more powerful opportunities. Thank you for being the change. Donate HERE.

Are there and challenges with customs with sending used shoes?

While some countries will not accept used items we specifically work in partnership with countries who will accept the donated items.

Why not collect donations and purchase shoes in-country?

Most of the countries we work in partnership with do not have a big footwear industry.

From the shoes distributed. Do you have statistics on the number of people who have got out of poverty through the micro-enterprise and/or individual shoe distribution?

No, unfortunately this would be impossible due to the multitude of vendors that are served.

The largest scale programs we support are in Tanzania. The distributors for those countries have been doing this for many years with Goodwill and Salvation Army – about 75% of their shoes come from them. Our shoes are mixed with theirs according to grade, sizes, etc. to ensure that the appropriate shoe goes to the appropriate micro vendor. So when the vendor receives shoes, it is a mix from these other charities as well. We do, however, do site visits to meet with vendors to ascertain their needs and understand the benefit they have received.

During a trip to Tanzania in June 2011 we were pleased to learn that the average vendor makes about $300 per month – roughly 3 times the wage of the average Tanzanian. We also do ongoing assessment as the project continues in Tanzania and other developing countries.

With the shoes that are used for micro-enterprise in Tanzania does this cause problems at the markets between stall holders for people who already sell shoes? And are we saturating the market?

The recession has greatly decreased the supply of quality used shoes as people in developed countries hold on to their old shoes longer. We are not aware of any issues between competing sellers – especially since they have been in business for a while.

There are local shoe makers in places like Tanzania but our local agents there have told us that they make a different type of shoe than is available through micro.

Does wearing the shoes for a long time cause other infections because the shoes become un-hygienic?

No, particularly when you take into account the much greater risk of injury and infection from having no shoes. Also, don’t underestimate the hygiene standards of people in developing countries.

How many people have you set-up through the micro-enterprise in Tanzania?

We have supported thousands in Tanzania. It’s impossible to know how many people got their first inventory of shoes from us given that we are not the first charity to supply micro in Tanzania.