Tuesday, 20 September 2011

And.. how does it all work exactly??

Reading through the Giving Report (link), they breakdown the process of how they do this into 3 steps, with their approach as "Give Sustainability. Give Responsibility". The 3 steps are:

"Step 1. Establish partnerships
TOMS works to establish shoe-giving partnerships with humanitarian organisations worldwide that have deep experience and a long-term presence in the countries and communities they serve.
Step 2. Identify communities that need shoes
In partnership with our Giving Partner, we find communities that will benefit most from TOMS shoes due to economic, health and educational needs - and where local businesses will not be negatively affected.
Step 3. Help our shoes have a bigger impact
Children who get TOMS shoes receives them as a part of larger health and educational programs run by our Giving Partners. These programs help children get the care and opportunity they need to jeep them healthy and in school."

Thinking about what they do, I can see the problem which has been raised in some blog posts, such as the one on the 'Good Intentions is not enough' blog, where if they just go and bombard a village with free shoes it will just take away any custom for local shoe stalls or what ever they have and what not. Even so, this is not what TOMS does, they have thought a lot about where they go with the shoes to help, and they don't just give once, they return when possible to places as explained in the facts sections of the Giving Report:

"We learned:
Children grow out of shoes fast! So we aim to give repeatedly when ever possible. Repeat giving allows us to learn more about the needs of the community so we can continue to improve the way we give."

"We are considerate of local businesses. 
Going in and trampling the local economy would be downright un-TOMSy. We always try to make sure there won't be any mom and pop shoe makers put out of business by our giving activities."

"We don't give once and leave - we keep giving.
Kids grow out of shoes. So we strive to set up sustainable giving partnerships that allow us to give repeatedly as children grow."

"We don't do it alone.
As of September 2010, TOMS customers have given away 1,000,000 pairs of shoes (awesome), and could only have done so through our incredible Giving Partners on the ground in each location. Of our little family of employees had to do that all themselves, they'd never have time to make new shoes or answer your calls."

"Giving isn't instantaneous.
Once a shoe is purchased, it takes several months for our Giving Partners to order shoes, have them shipped and then place them on children's feet."

"Kids don't make our shoes.
This one is for real cynics out there. Our factories in Argentina, Ethiopia and China are all third-party audited to ensure they employ no child labor, and pay fair wages."

"We don't just 'decide' to start giving shoes to a village.
We're learning a lot, but still rely heavily on our Giving Partners' expertise in the communities they work to determine how and where we give."

Where are the shoes produced? And where do they give them?

According to the Giving Report, the actual TOMS shoes are made in 3 different countries - Argentina, Ethiopia and China, and are distributed in 23 countries. These are:

  • United States
  • Guatemala
  • El Salvador 
  • Nicaragua
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Peru
  • Argentina
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Uganda
  • Rwanda
  • Burundi
  • Zambia
  • Swaziland
  • Lesotho
  • Ethiopia
  • South Africa
  • Malawi
  • Armenia
  • Mongolia
  • China
  • Cambodia

Monday, 19 September 2011

One Day Without Shoes

One Day Without Shoes is an official campaign set up by TOMS, where they want everyone in the world to go barefoot for one day, both to experience what it is like for the children in developing countries go through every day, as well as to create curiosity amongst people that are unaware and to then share the TOMS story with them.

On the official website for the One Day Without Shoes campaign (link), they have a FAQ section which explains a lot more as to why they think people should get involved:

"Arjun: Why would a shoe company sponsor an event to not wear shoes...
Why would a company GIVE away a pair of shoes for every pair they sold? Sure, it might sound crazy at first but One Day Without Shoes expresses everything we stand for: educating consumers about the impact a pair of shoes can have on a child's life and empowering them with simple actions that address the need for shoes.

Tiffany: Sorry, I work...and I'm not walking around a hospital barefoot! ;)
There are tons of creative ways to participate in One Day Without Shoes. Walk for an hour barefoot after work, plan a barefoot evening event or breakfast with friends, participate simply by sharing the message with friends who are able to go with no shoes. The possibilities are endless, and people are getting creative- check out our event section for more ideas.

Anna: What happens if you have to put shoes on, what happens then??
Well, nothing. But do you know what happens when you take your shoes off? People will ask why and you can tell them about the daily hardships children around the world face with out shoes.

Lance: If Podoconiosis is 100% preventable by wearing shoes, why would I not wear shoes?
That's right- Podo is preventable with shoes. But the truth is, most people are not aware of this fact and the impact of a pair of shoes has on a person's life. Those who walk in volcanic soil day after day are susceptible to this devastating disease, but walking one day without shoes around your neighbourhood doesn't really put you at risk. Rather, it empowers you to educate those around you who have no clue why you're walkin' around town barefoot."

On the official website for One Day Without Shoes, there is a link where you can click to download an Event Toolkit that you can then use on the day of the event to help you to raise more awareness about the day and the cause. It has all sorts of different suggestions that you can do, here are some that are in the kit:

Office HQ
The people who work at Office HQ participated in the One Day Without Shoes (link), and everyone in the office went barefoot on the day. They said:

"It might be cold, it'll probably be uncomfortable, and their feet will certainly get dirty, but by doing so they'll help raise awareness of the impact a simple pair of shoes can bring to a child's life."

On their blog post they have a pretty good explanation of the campaign which I think sums it up quite nicely:

"One Day Without Shoes is an annual event hosted by TOMS Shoes in which students, friends, parents, strangers, and co-workers host or participate in events without shoes. Some go without shoes for an hour, some for the whole day, but all become part of a greater movement toward change. Your involvement will captivate and educate communities, and impact the lives of children around the world. Did you know most children in developing countries grow up barefoot? Did you know some children walk without shoes for miles each day, and they can often not attend school without proper footwear? In Ethiopia, approximately 1 million people are suffering from a debilitating disease called podoconiosis, which is 100% preventable with basic hygene and shoes. If you could change the lives of children with a simple gesture, would you do for one day what millions do everyday?"

"Good Intentions are not enough" - You can't be serious?!

Whilst researching, I have come across a blog website called 'Good Intentions are not enough' (link). For a start, at least if someone has good intentions then at least they are trying..

The writer of the blog, who I believe is called Saundra, judging from the comments section of the blog, has expressed quite strong opinions as to why TOMS isn't actually good, saying:

"To answer everyone's question, here's how I feel. TOMS Shoe's is a good marketing tool, but it's not good aid. Here's why:

  • It's quintessential Whites in Shining Armor.
  • It's doing things 'for' people not 'with' people.
  • They allow people to pay to travel with the distribution trips as shoes fitters thereby promoting poverty tourism.
  • They promote the 'awareness raising' activity - One Day Without Shoes - whch is really just a marketing ploy. I've launched a counter-campaign this year, A Day Without Dignity.
  • They ship goods for free that outcompete local goods, it's a short-term solution that could create long-term problems.
  • I challenge anyone to find a single country in the world where there are not shoes for sale in the market place. There are many better and cheaper ways to get shoes on the feet of the poor."

Well, as for the last point she has raised, no one has ever said there's places in the world that don't have any shoes for sale - but being able to actually afford shoes is the main issue. Obviously with the poorer countries, when it comes to the decision between buying a pair of shoes or food to eat, well the answer is pretty much a no brainer really.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Why Shoes Exactly?

The lovely wikipedia provided me with this information on why Blake Mycoskie choose to give shoes (link). Although I already sort of know from producing posts previous to this, here explains in more detail exactly why they are a good idea.

"After his visit to Argentine in 2006, Mycoskie decided to get involved in shoe giving. Considering sustainability, he concluded that starting a business rather than a charity would help his impact last longer. In his speech at the Second Annual Clinton Global Initiative, Mycoskie recalled that children without shoes were not only susceptible to health risks, but were not allowed to go to school. When asked 'Why shoes?' Mycoskie's main reason is a disease called podoconiosis, a debilitating and disfiguring disease. Also known as 'Mossy Foot', Podoconiosis is a form of elephantiasis that affects the lymphatic system of the lower legs. It is a soil-transmitted disease caused by walking in silica-rich soil. This causes one's feet to swell along with many other health implications. Shoes are the most basic solution to many of those health risks. According to the TOMS Shoes website, there are over one billion people at risk for soil-transmitted diseases around the world, and shoes can help prevent them. Mycoskie emphasises that his company's goal is to not only give shoes, but to also educate others on the importance of wearing shoes."

I went on to the TOMS official website, where they have a section explaining 'why shoes', and this says:

"Many children in developing countries grow up barefoot. Whether at play, doing chores or going to school, these children are at risk"
  • A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
  • Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they are also dangerous when wounds become infected.
  • Many times children can't attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don't have shoes, they don't go to school. If they don't receive an education, they don't have the opportunity to realise their potential."

Whilst on a website I found this image that explains why shoes would benefit Maria in Guatemala.

It explains how "With additional protection from illness and infection, Maria can spend more days helping her family and building her potential in school"

There was also this on the same website, explaining a little about the disease that is mentioned in the Wikipedia section.

What is Podoconiosis, and what does it look like?
I began looking for more information on the disease which is mentioned in the image above and Wikipedia section I found that can be caused by not wearing shoes. I started by looking on google images to see what peoples feet could look like if they were exposed to it (link).

I looked on Google for a proper definition of the disease to get to know more about it, and the first thing I read was this (below). I found it a little challenging to read first off and once I had done I didn't really feel like I had fully grasped what it was saying although it does contain a lot of information. (link)

"Podoconiosis ('dust in the feet') presents as bilateral asymmetrical swelling of the feet and lower legs. It is seen in susceptible families of bare-footed farmers in well-defined fertile volcanic highland zones of Africa, Central and South America, and Indonesia, and also in the lowlands irrigated by rivers from these highlands. It is due to the absorption of silica particles from the soil, through the feet of someone from a susceptible family. This causes the patient's lymphatics to fibrose, and obstruct, and his fermoral nodes to enlarge. This in turn makes his legs and feet swell, and progress through stages which are described as 'water bag', 'rubbery', and 'wooden'. Finally, his leg becomes hyperkeratotic, 'mossy', and nodular. Lymph may ooze through his skin, which may become secondarily infected by fungi or bacteria. The disease may progress steadily, or there may be a succession of acute episodes which resolve incompletely. Villagers in endemic areas are often able to recognise the early stages."

I continued looking on various other website for a bit simpler explanation of the disease to help me understand it more. I think because this is the first time I have heard about the disease I want to get a full grasp on it to fully understand the 'main reason' for 'why shoes'. I found this website (link) which explains things a little easier:

"Podoconiosis (often called Elephantiases disease) symptoms cause pain, sores, swelling, growths, cracking, and a pair of shoes could have prevented it in the first place.

Podoconiosis (from Greek 'podos,' a foot; and 'konia, 'dust') is a geochemical disease associated with crystalline blockage of the lymphatics, microcrystal disease, mossy food, nonfilarial elephantiasis or lymphatic verrucosis. What does all that mean? Podoconiosos (podo) is a disease that usually affects the lower legs and feet and it's from the very ground the affected people walk on. Podo victims live in places of high altitudes (over 1000 meters above sea level) and they wear no shoes, being poor farmers in the neighbourhoods of volcanoes (whether active or not), where red clay soil and high alkalic content is the norm."

On the Giving Report (link) that TOMS released in fall 2010 which featured in an issue of Good magazine, they had a section named 'why shoes?', and in it explains a little about the Podoconiosis disease:

"Podoconiosis: Causes swelling of the feet and legs due to prolonged exposure to certain types of irritant soil."

They also explain about a few other diseases that can be caused by not wearing shoes, and 'these are just a few', as they have stated. I also found a picture for an example of the disease.

"Hookworm: Causes anemia, stunted physical and mental development, and on occasion, congestive heart failure. Affects up to 1/5 world population."

"Jiggers: Causes severe itching and hives from bites from small mite-like organisms around the feet and ankles."

"Tetanus: Potentially fatal infectious disease caused by bacteria entering the body through cuts or open wounds. Causes painful muscle spasms and locked jaw."

Who is Blake Mycoskie exactly? And what does he have to say about TOMS?

Blake Mycoskie is a serial entrepreneur, having started 5 companies in the last 12 years (upto 2008) usually in media and technology. He is the heart and soul of the whole TOMS cause, as well as the founder after creating the company in 2006 after a trip to Argentina looking for time to relax and experience the culture. 

He explains in an interview back in 2008 (link) of his experience of seeing children over there with no shoes:

"It just shocked me to some degree. Shoes aren't that expensive, so why don't they have shoes? And even more so, after I stopped a few of the kids and looked at their feet, they had cuts. They had hookworm. They had infections."

In the same interview he explains about his initial plans for TOMS, and his ideas he had to tackle the problem he was seeing before deciding on doing what is now a worldwide cause.

"I thought that this is something that seems so easy to solve. There's this inexpensive shoe in Argentina, the alpargata. Why don't we just give them those? I remember having this discussion with the girl I was with at the time, and she was like 'Well, Blake, I think it's beautiful that you want to help them and give them shoes, but giving them shoes once isn't really going to do anything for them'.

I said, 'Ok, well what if we started a charity and we started giving them shoes every year, or every six months?' We started talking through this and what I realised at that point was, for me, the charity model wouldn't work. Because I could maybe go to my friends and family and ask them for money to donate to my shoe charity once and they might do it. Maybe they'd do it the second time. 

But when it comes to the third, fourth and fifth year, I just know my attention span. It would be hard for me to get excited about going out and continuing to ask my friends and family for money for my shoe charity.

So I really wanted to create a model where I would never have to do that. It would be sustained  by a product that people would buy everyday anyway. That's when I came up with the idea of TOMS.

The idea that day on the farm was, 'I'm going to make this shoe. I'm going to make this traditional Argentine shoe that people haven't seen here in the US yet. I'm going to sell it and for every pair I sell, I'm going to give one back to these kids in Argentine until they all have shoes. I'm going to continue to do it do they always have shoes'. That was the idea two and a half years ago and it hasn't changed one bit since.

I think it's amazing how Blake has created this amazing cause with all intentions to help as many children as he can, and has literally made it his life meaning he is only at home in L.A. five or six days a month and the rest of the time he is on the road. Explained in an interview (link):

"The more TOMS grows, the less time Mycoskie seems to spend in the office. He delegates the day-to-day operation of the company to his management team. That frees him up to spend much of his time traveling - spreading the TOMS gospel, delivering shoes to children in Africa and South America, and taking fairly lengthy vacations. When he is not on the road, Mycoskie, 33, reconnects with employees in quick, focused meetings and in relaxed afternoons on his sailboat".

He keeps a journal which he writes in every morning to keep track of everything and to reflect back over and uses to help prepare for the next big steps ahead.

"Almost every morning I write in my journal. I've been keeping it for a long time - I've filled more than 50 books. I write about what's going on in my personal and spiritual life or what's going on at work. It helps me keep things in perspective, especially when things get crazy or I get stressed or we have obstacles. When I go back a month later and read what I was feeling, I realize that it wasn't that big of a deal - we got through it. And that helps me prepare for the next time that I deal with difficult stuff".

I found an interview that was conducted on 4th August 2011 with Blake Mycoskie that I found to be an interested read as he talks about various developments within the TOMS cause. (Interview link)

Since the launch of TOMS, how has the brand and cause grown?
Seeing TOMS grow into a true movement from the day I had the idea in Argentine, is truly humbling. I never imagined it would be where it is today. We have multiple silhouettes for men, women, and children and have thousands of people following us on Facebook and Twitter. It's amazing to see how many people have joined the One for One movement and have helped so many children along the way.

Why do you think people want to invest in not only style, but a cause as well?
We are living in a generation where people are taking a stand to make a difference in the world. With a single purchase of a pair of TOMS, the customer is making a direct impact on a child's life somewhere in the world.

Why did TOMS expand to wedding shoes? Was there a demand?
We started to see couples use creative ways to incorporate TOMS into their wedding, whether the shoes were used as party favours or something for the bride to slip into for the reception. We thought it would be fun to create something special for people on their special day.

TOMS has also expanded into different styles as well, how important was it to do this?
We heard that people loved our shoes but couldn't see themselves wearing our classic style. We thought it was important to create different silhouettes that would cater to a wider range of people so they too, could support the One for One movement on their feet.

How do you hope to see TOMS continue to grow?
This June, TOMS launched its second One for One product: eyewear. With each pair purchased, TOMS will help give sight to someone in need. One for One. I hope to make it available in Canada very soon.

Online sources used on this page: 1, 2, 3,

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What the bloody heck is TOMS?

TOMS is a movement that was set up by traveler Blake Mycoskie back in 2006 after befriending children in Argentina and noticed they didn't own any shoes to protect their feet. So, wanting to help he set up TOMS, a cause that would match every pair of shoes someone purchased with a new pair of shoes then given to a child in need. That's their mission, and is all about 'people making every day choices that improve the lives of children'. The cause is called One for One. He returned to Argentina later in 2006 with a group of others with 10 000 pairs of new shoes - all made possible by the charity. (link)

So who's Tom?
There is no Tom behind the TOMS movement, it's an abbreviation for 'Shoes for a Better Tomorrow', but they couldn't fit that on the back of a shoe. (link)


Guinness Storehouse
During a recent trip to Ireland I visited the Guinness Storehouse, where you can learn about everything from the ingredients right through to advertising for Guinness. I felt I learnt a lot walking around it, and certainly enjoyed the free pint of Guinness when I got to the top.

Once I'd paid to go in I was greeted with this awesome statue. 
Before I started exploring, I was given a map to follow to find each of the sections although I wouldn't necessarily need it anyway because unless I was to insist on going in the lift, it's pretty much one long trail taking you through all the areas.

The first section is (obviously) ingredients. There are 4 that go into making Guinness - water, barley, hops and yeast.

The first ingredient I came to is Barley. '100 000 tons of Irish grown barley are used every year in making Guinness'. There was a huge Malting Pit full of the stuff to see and touch as you walked around it, with videos playing in the middle showing the process of it growing.

 As I was walking around the Storehouse, all along the way was little facts across the walls and on the floors. There was one as you walked around the Malting Pit reading: 'The word beer is thought to originate from the anglo saxon word Baere meaning barley'.

'Guinness is brewed using a combination of malted, unmalted and roasted barley'. Before barley can be used within the brewing process, if first needs to have the starches in it broken down, which is done by malting.

'Barley provides the basic raw ingredient for fermentation, contributing to the balanced flavour and uniqueness of Guinness beer. The roasted barley gives Guinness beer its characteristic deep ruby red colour'.

Here is another fact appearing on the walls around the Malting Pit, one which was made earlier stating: 'At St. James's Gate brewery, Guinness use 100 000 tonnes of Irish grown barley per year'.

The next ingredient I came to as I walked from the barley section was Hops. Whilst walking, there is a voiceover with someone explaining a little about it, and tells you to take in deep breaths to smell the essence of it. The smell was quite distinctive, but I couldn't describe it.

The last ingredient section I came to was water - consisting of a huge waterfall, where people have thrown in loose change which will then go on to be donated to the 'Water of Life' programme, as stated along the front of the water section.

Along the side of the section with the waterfall reads 'No Water, No Guinness'.

'Brewers are precious about their water'.

Skill of the Brewer
After the ingredients sections came the 'Now add the skill of the brewer'.