Back in June 2015, the Causely community partnered with Soles4Souls to provide over 29,000 pairs of shoes to people in need. And because of that donation, in addition to hundreds of donations since then, Causely was invited by Soles4Souls to help distribute donated shoes in Honduras. Of course we accepted and sent Brooke Peterson, Causely's Head of Culture and Non-Profit Partnerships.
This is the story of Brooke's experience distributing shoes in Honduras. She reports straight from The Good Lounge, the one room in our office dedicated to spotlighting all the good our communities have done over the years.
Honduras With Soles4Souls—March 28th - April 1st
By: Brooke Peterson
We arrived in San Pedro Sula on a Monday, welcomed by a stifling 95 degrees and 100% humidity. Stepping off the plane was like walking into a sticky sauna that hadn’t been cleaned in weeks. This blazing reality hit us every day of the trip.
Our group was small to start out with, and agree the heat shrunk us even more by the end of the trip. There was Buddy Teaster (CEO of Soles4Souls) and Tiffany Johnson (Soles4Souls Spokesperson/Trip Leader), a journalist from Footwear News, a leader from Boy Scouts America, a photographer, myself, our body guard, and our body guard’s girlfriend as a translator.
The Work To Be Done
Immediately after landing, we were sent straight to the orphanage and were introduced to a giant shipping container full of shoes. Every single pair of shoes was donated by hundreds of communities like ours. It was overwhelming to see the tangible fruit of so much generosity and compassion.
That night, we prepped the shoes for distribution. We sorted, matched, smiled at the tiny size shoes for the younger kids, and made sure each shoe was in perfect condition for unfamiliar feet.
Over the next couple of days, we traveled to 7 different villages to distribute the shoes. Since there is little economic infrastructure in Honduras, our modes of transportation were various and adventurous: cars, boats, horseback, walking, etc. Our rental van was returned with a blown-out clutch and brakes.
Walking is the main mode of transportation so shoes are vital for people's health and safety. Most construction workers work barefoot or in flip flops. Kids run and play in trash-covered, polluted streets. Shoes are more of a protection than a practicality.
The Deeper Reality of Honduras
While it was live-giving to support the people of Honduras with shoes, I was equally shocked by the heartbreaking state of poverty that enveloped the entire country. The Honduran government basically tells its people (my language, not theirs), “We don’t give a shit about you or your future.”
The small and dwindling economy provides few options for employment, spends zero dollars to promote tourism (except one island where the cruise ships visit), and robs farmers of agricultural gains. In fact, the Honduran government, or middlemen, forces farmers to sell crops at sub par prices (20 cents/lb for premium coffee), making it impossible to make a buck.
I was discouraged further when I asked a 15 year old what he wanted to be or do when he grew up. Rather than ramble on about being an astronaut or a surgeon like all the kids I know in America, he stared blankly at me. He didn’t think about the future. Why would I ask him such a question? Future to him was, “When’s my next meal?” and “How will I survive tomorrow?”
The shoes seemed minuscule next to the larger economical problems.
A Culture of Expectation
There was a phrase in Spanish we heard constantly from the children that meant, "gift it to me." It means, “give me your necklace, or your sunglasses, or food, or your shoes.” Sadly, many Non-Governmental Organizations assist the people of Honduras in order to "stop the bleeding," or in other words, give handouts. This is necessary in many cases, but has also created a culture of expectation and most people give up on or don't want to work (no jobs + free handouts = no bueno).
How Soles4Souls Inspires Diligence
Soles4Souls is trying to change this culture of expectation. Yes, they do give handouts — shoes, because they are needed for health and safety. But, Soles4Souls also helps fight extreme poverty. They have a micro-enterprise program where they sell used shoes to entrepreneurs at a very low cost. The entrepreneurs then sell the shoes on the streets for 10x what they paid.
Our group met and interacted with some of the entrepreneurs. Specifically we met a woman named Tracy, who supports 11 family members by selling Soles4Souls shoes. Once she provides for her family, she uses anything "extra" to give back to the community. They refer to her as the unofficial "mayor" of the village.
It was inspiring to see what the program has done for individuals like Tracy, their families, and the entire community. They are giving hope to families and communities.
Creating Hope For The Future
I have always loved working with Soles4Souls. But, witnessing their programs and the relationships they have developed was amazing. By Friday, I was not ready to leave. There was still so much work to be done. But there was one glimmer of hope I held on to, flying back to the US: the impact we have already made and the impact we will continue to make.
The shoes our Causely community has donated support so much more than just feet. Our donations to Soles4Souls support futures. And I can’t wait to work with our community here to support the futures of our friends all over the world.
Thanks for always checking in and supporting futures.