Monday, July 23, 2007
What does a pair of shoes really cost?
Brian Sabeta, a participant in ASAP’s Bridge the Gap Education project, when asked what one thing he would change about his life if he could, said that he would ask for shoes. He walks six kilometers to school everyday, and he said, quite simply, that his feet hurt.
A year ago I would have seen a simple answer to this problem. I should buy Brian a pair of shoes! I have a closet full of shoes I don’t even wear, so certainly I can afford to buy a pair for a boy who really needs one. But during my time with ASAP, I have begun to look at the problem differently. What happens next year when Brian grows out of those shoes or wears them out? Do I buy him another pair? What about the year after that? What about when he grows up and has children- do I buy them shoes as well?
I’m learning that buying shoes for every barefoot child is not feasible, nor is it sustainable. Further, it may not even be desirable. By giving Brian a pair of shoes I would be telling him that he needs me to provide for him and that he, his family, and his community all are incapable of taking care of themselves. I would be perpetuating the dehumanizing cycle of donor dependence.
Of course, this theory doesn’t make Brian’s sore feet feel any better. Then what can we, as cultural outsiders, do? We can support programs that train, equip, and empower local communities and individuals to meet their own needs. In Brian’s case, the answer is Kufusa Mari Junior, a program that teaches kids a simple form of savings and lending methodology. The children of adult Kufusa Mari participants form all-kid clubs and learn to save money to pay for their school fees, school supplies, and uniform. Participants can even use the money to buy, you guessed it, shoes.
Posted by Stephanie at 5:25 PM