Sometimes, a fairly simple idea can really strike a chord with many. Particularly if it taps into the Irish tradition of giving to those in need.
During a business trip to South Africa, Sligoman, Ciaran McHugh, along with his employer, White Calling, visited the township of Khayelitsha, the largest township or "slum" in Cape Town, in November 2018. They were there to support the efforts of the Gary Kirsten Foundation, the company's charitable cause in South Africa. He was moved to reach out to the many enthusiastic yet ill-equipped kids who were desperate to play sport in the township.
Life is tough in the townships of South Africa. Especially for kids. Over 4 million children in South Africa live in poverty.
Ciaran was both amazed by the scale of the township settlements, but also appalled by the poverty. What moved him most, though, was the positive attitude and resilience of its inhabitants, especially the children.
While visiting a school in the township, two thoughts struck Ciaran. Firstly, that most of the children had no shoes on – and secondly, that a township is somewhere he would definitely want his kids wearing shoes. He could also visualise a box in his attic full of shoes which his kids had outgrown but that were still in good condition. They could be given to the deserving kids of Kayelithsa!
And so a plan was hatched to see if 500 pairs of pre-loved sports shoes could be collected in Sligo and shipped to the kids in the townships of Cape Town.
2 months later, and with the support of his employer, White Calling, the first "In My Shoes" campaign was launched in January 2019 and it received massive support!
Over 40 national schools in Sligo took part
Leaflets were sent home to parents explaining the appeal and asking families to donate sports shoes which their kids had outgrown
In some schools, Student Councils, comprising 6 to 12 year olds, ran the entire campaign, enabled by their teachers who wanted to empower them to work together for the benefit of others
Children in Sligo were also asked to include a note with each pair of shoes, to tell the kids in Cape Town a little bit about themselves and the sports they play
The campaign received huge support, from teachers, parents and pupils alike.
In all, over 2,500 pairs of sports shoes were donated, collected, sorted and shipped to the "In My Shoes" distributors in Cape Town.
The impact on the ground in Cape Town was massive.
"In My Shoes" received the following feedback from our Cape Town distributors:
“Your generous donation impacted so many lives”
“These communities are of the poorest and your donation of boots made many children smile and brought joy to them through your acts of kindness”
“One of the community leaders broke down in tears when we told her of our plans with the shoes, as they have been plagued by gang violence over the last couple weeks”.
"We are incredibly grateful for the incredible ‘In My Shoes’ campaign; myself and the team were absolutely amazed when this massive shipment arrived”
February 2020 sees the start of the second "In My Shoes" campaign.
The target – 5,000 plus pairs of sports shoes, to be collected in Sligo and beyond and shipped to the kids in Cape Town!
While they may be from two very different worlds, separated by 14,133 kilometers, children in both communities have been connected by thousands of small acts of kindness.