The story of Sandrine in Goma, DRC
Location: Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo Giving Partner: Eastern Congo Initiative
For 12-year-old Sandrine and her family, a new pair of TOMS Shoes doesn't just offer her feet protection on her 30-‐minute walk to school, but it also relieves some of the financial burdens her parents experience daily. Sandrine is the fourth in a family of eight children, living in Goma, an impoverished region in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her father has been unemployed for many years and her mother sells beans in the market to try and feed the family. However, the income is not enough to send their children to school.
With the help of Giving Partner Eastern Congo Initiative and their partnership with a local organization called Alpha Ujuvi, Sandrine and her siblings were able to enroll in school for the first time last year. ECI partners with local organizations in eastern Congo that enable vulnerable children to attend school and receive health care. Together, the organizations believe that education is a deciding factor that can help create a better future for the people of the eastern Congo. It is through these initiatives in schools that new TOMS Shoes are distributed.
However, Sandrine's trek to school is not an easy one. Her neighborhood was built on top of volcanic rock after a 2002 eruption of the Volcano Nyiragongo. The sharp volcanic rock and dust makes it difficult to walk the long distances to go to school and fetch clean water. Her community also has little access to running water or proper health care, and many of the homes are makeshift structures put together with wooden planks.
Hortense, a director at Alpha Ujuvi's school, said that good shoes are important because they protect children's feet from the rough terrain during playtime and their long walks to school. "These shoes respond to an urgent and permanent needs of the children in this community," Hortense explains. Since the TOMS shoe distribution, teachers at Sandrine's primary school have reported better school attendance and improved self-esteem in children.
Before receiving her new TOMS, Sandrine used to complain that the tough volcanic rock made her walk to school difficult. However, she now shares, "I like these shoes because when I walk to school I don't have to wear sandals anymore...With my new shoes now rocks don't hurt me when I come to school."
We're excited and humbled to, for the first time, collaborate with a Giving Partner on a special-‐edition shoe; this one inspired by Congolese textiles. Each purchase still means a new pair of shoes for you and a child like Sandrine, but it also helps fund ECI's partner programs for youth and families in the region.