A Superabundance of Shoes!

We at Feed the Children are grateful for our ongoing partnership with TOMS and excited to share photos and details from our latest shoe distribution event.

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The event took place in Intibucá, Honduras, the mountainous region of the country. Intibucá registers the lowest temperatures in the country, making it ideal for growing all kinds of vegetables. Many women here use hand constructed wooden looms to produce traditional Lenca woven textiles such as ponchos, scarves, and shawls. And many enterprising individuals gather the fallen pine needles from the surrounding forests and weave them into sturdy and decorative baskets, potholders, and vases.

Still, the rates of poverty and child malnutrition in this area remain too high. Over time, Feed the Children has been developing relationships and deepening our capacity in the region. Most of these initiatives have supported our Health pillar. For example, we’ve partnered to provide Vitamin A and deworming treatments for children. We’ve distributed soccer balls (footballs) so that kids have quality equipment with which to play—helping build strong bodies, self-esteem, and positive relationships.

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TOMS shoe distribution is a key component in this ongoing community-building effort. All told, more than 40,000 pairs of good-quality canvas shoes have been distributed in the cities of Intibucá, Jesus de Otoro, Yamaranguila, San Juan and San Francisco de Opalaca. More than 160,000 pairs have been distributed in Honduras as a whole.

“Each delivery in each city is completely different, but the children in mountainous areas of Intibucá face particular hardship,” said Aaron Alonzo, Regional Donations Project Coordinator for Feed the Children Honduras. “The children’s feet were dirty because they have to cross muddy roads, even small creeks to get to school. Once they put on a new pair of shoes, the faces of the children seemed to glow! They were in pure bliss, jumping up and down with joy because they had a new pair of shoes.”

We’re proud to work with TOMS and are grateful for their generosity in Intibucá and so many places around the globe.

TOMS Shares Shoes, Friendship in Nicaragua

In the Palo Verde community in Nicaragua, kids are growing and thriving… and so is fresh produce, thanks to a new garden that was recently planted as a result of a generous donation from an individual who visited the community recently.

With this gift, Feed the Children personnel were able to purchase tools, soil, compost, recycling bottles, hoses and pipes to create a small irrigation system. Students from the local school are tending the garden, which currently features onions and tomatoes, with plans to grow cassava. Children as young as seven are weeding, harvesting, and learning sustainable livelihoods—and are able to eat the fruits of their labor as well!

The community is also benefiting from a new submersible water pump to access fresh water. Up to this point the school has had to rely on the kindness of a local family, who granted access to their well, but were only able to do so for certain hours of the day. Now the school can rely on its own source of water, 365 days a year.

Last month a group from TOMS traveled to Nicaragua for a Giving Trip. The TOMS family includes a network of Shoe Giving Partners around the world and they host these trips to give their team members an opportunity to see the impact they are making and distribute shoes, learn about a Giving Partner, and experience the countries and communities they serve. The TOMS team was able to see Palo Verde firsthand, and we asked one of them to share her experiences in her own words.

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 10.53.06 AMTell us about an experience or encounter that will stick with you.

Every encounter with every child, teacher, employee, or volunteer was so heartwarming and humbling, and genuinely contributed to an experience that I will forever hold close to my heart. Each person—big, small and teeny tiny—greeted us with either a smile, a timid look, or excitement at our presence, and gratitude for what we, at TOMS, do for them with the help of our Giving Partners like Feed the Children. But little did they know that they had an even greater impact on my soul than I feel I could have on them. 

I remember one particular boy, about 8 years old. After measuring his feet and trying on his shoes, he refused to keep his shoes on. He asked me to take them off and put his old, broken shoes back on. I was sad. I was sad that it seemed he was not as excited about his shoes as I was giving them to him. So with a heart full of sadness I watched him return to his seat. He didn’t know that I was watching him, but I saw him quietly return to his seat and sit down. Suddenly he hugged his shoes tightly with both arms and kissed them over and over again. My heart lifted. He was so happy and proud of his new shoes, and it warmed my heart that he hadn’t rejected the shoes, he had simply wanted to have a special moment with them first.  

What surprised you most about what you saw while there?

I was astonished by the amount of work, support and thoughtfulness behind each program that Feed the Children takes on to drive toward a better tomorrow. I was absolutely amazed by how much Feed the Children does and how immersed they are in the communities. They know these kids by name—they know their parents, their family history, and see each child as the most important gem on earth. It was incredibly beautiful to see, and I will forever be a lifetime advocate and fan of Feed the Children.

What did you take away from this experience?

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This experience was inspiring… the people, the work, the effort it takes… everywhere I turned I saw and learned something new. It truly takes a community of people who are hopeful about the future and want a brighter future to lift a community out of poverty. And the reality is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, hard work, and unwavering commitment from a whole lot of people. 

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Here at Feed the Children, we appreciate the commitment of TOMS and all of our partners! Through their support, we are making a difference in the lives of children in Nicaragua and around the world. To learn more about our international work, click here

Bringing Hope to Nicaragua, Thanks to TOMS– One Foot at Time

We love when our partners get the opportunity to travel to the field to see how their contributions are changing lives.

 Recently, Morgan Loomis, our Director of International Partnerships traveled to Nicaragua with a delegation from TOMS—a committed partner of ours that provides new shoes to kids within our programs.

Morgan shared plenty upon her return.

Recently, Feed the Children hosted a Giving Trip in Nicaragua for a group from TOMS.

TOMS is in business to improve lives and wants to ensure their own team has the opportunity to experience this first-hand and see the impact their work is making.

I, along with local Feed the Children staff and the group from TOMS, spent a week in the field visiting communities and learning about our programs and 4-Pillar approach to development: Food and Nutrition, Water Sanitation and Health, Education, and Livelihoods.

Throughout the week, we delivered TOMS giving shoes, served meals, met with teachers and community leaders, and spent time playing with the children.

Though it was rainy season and extremely hot, I was so proud of how beautifully the TOMS staff interacted with the kids and community leaders we met during our journey. Everyone was so excited to see the work for themselves—through their eyes.

For me, personally, I loved the opportunity to interact with the hard working members of our field staff on the ground in Nicaragua. Our field teams are incredibly dedicated to our mission, but sometimes in the US we don’t truly understand all they do as they travel great distances every week to champion children in schools and at community centers. In Nicaragua alone, we feed nutritious meals to over 1,900 children in 20 communities and deliver school supplies to 1,200 students in 14 communities.

We met children in better health, doing better in school and with much hope for their futures. In community after community, teachers shared personal stories of the impact that they have seen on the children who receive TOMS and the glowing feedback they have received from parents.

Our team truly felt the joy of the children as we laughed and played with them. They love TOMS and Feed the Children for bringing shoes and the “shoemaking” team to them.

The visit gave the children an opportunity to meet TOMS staffers and make a personal connection to the individuals that support them.  This personal link is almost as important as the shoes themselves, because it truly makes the children realize someone truly cares and supports them.

We felt overwhelmed by the generous hospitality of the kids’ songs, poems and dances. Parents shared with our team later, how much the kids enjoyed playing games with the travelers and how special the visit made them feel.

TOMS groupOn our last day, the group spent the morning at Feed the Children’s Productive Training Center in El Crucero, delivering TOMS to children and visiting with the mothers. At the center, mothers are taught livelihood skills, such as training in vegetable production, baking, tailoring and poultry management. These skills not only allow them to provide food for their children, but are also an alternative income generation resource they can use to support their families in other ways.

Before we left, the volunteer moms surprised the team with a TOMS cake and expressed gratitude for their support. How cool was this!

TOMS cakeI came home thankful for TOMS and the privilege of working with the wonderful donors that support Feed the Children’s international programs.

Truly, one child, one pair of shoes at a time, we are impacting kids’ lives forever in Nicaragua, and around the world!