Used shoes transform lives in poor countries

Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:15pm EST
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By Karen Pierog

ALSIP, Illinois (Reuters Life!) - Mona Purdy, a Chicago hairdresser, has seen what a pair of used shoes can do to change the lives of poor children.

At a Jamaican orphanage, girls suffering from deformities and burns couldn't believe the shoes Purdy had given them were theirs to keep.

"They had not had Christmas, ever. Christmas was giving them these used shoes in March," said Purdy, the founder of the charity, Share Your Soles, her voice cracking with emotion.

"I'm thinking, 'I shouldn't be here. I should be home with my kids.' After I saw these kids I realized I am so supposed to be here."

The impetus for the charity began 10 years ago when Purdy participated in a race in Guatemala, where local children put hot tar on the bottom of their feet and ran along the side of rocky course.

It was fortified when she learned that in many countries having shoes is a prerequisite for attending schools, and how walking in bare feet can cause injuries and infections that can lead to amputation.

"It blew my mind. I didn't know kids didn't have shoes anywhere," said Purdy, a divorced mother of three, recalling what led her to start the charity in her suburban Chicago home.

With more and more shoes being donated, it later moved to bigger warehouses and expanded to more countries with the help of donated space and shipping.   Continued...

<p>Students from a local high school sort donated shoes and boots at the Share Your Soles warehouse in the Chicago suburb of Alsip, Illinois November 5, 2009. REUTERS/Frank Polich</p>