We’re celebrating our 8th Birthday! This week we’ll be celebrating all things eight with a special look at the things that make TOMS unique. First up to honor in our celebration, eight years of Giving.
What began as a simple idea has evolved into a powerful business model helping address need, and also advance health, education and economic opportunity for children and their communities around the world. As we look back on these eight years, we would like to highlight eight countries that have had a hand in shaping our Giving story.
This is where it all started. In 2006, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie befriended children in a village in Argentina and saw that they didn’t have adequate shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a child in need. One for One.® Argentina will always be close to our hearts. In fact, Blake and a TOMS team returned to Argentina in the Summer of 2010 to celebrate the 1,000,000th pair of new shoes given.
In Malawi, a child’s future is almost entirely dependent on the opportunity to receive an education. However, 50% of children drop out of school by the fourth grade because they do not have the basic supplies required to enroll including a uniform and shoes. While primary and secondary school tuition is free, uniforms are not and shoes are often a requirement.
In a country where the average income is $870 per year (World Bank, 2011), this often prevents orphans from receiving an education. TOMS Shoe Giving Partner goods for good distributes new TOM Shoes to orphan children to help eliminate the barriers to an education, and thus create an opportunity for a better future.
In 2011 the One for One model was expanded and TOMS Eyewear launched. With every pair purchased, TOMS will help restore sight to a person in need. One for One.® With the help of Seva Foundation, our lead Sight Giving Partner, TOMS Eyewear purchases have helped treat and prevent avoidable blindness through sustainable ophthalmology services.
In Nepal, pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Salma KC Rai and her team extended eye care services to people in remote communities who could otherwise not have access to eye care. During one of these mobile eye camps, Dr. Salma and her team examined more than 400 patients and performed nearly 100 surgeries, as well as provided hundreds of people with medical treatment and prescription glasses.
While on his first trip to Ethiopia, TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie learned of a debilitating disease called podoconiosis, or podo for short. Podo is a painful and stigmatizing form of elephantiasis that affects millions who live and walk barefoot in silica-rich volcanic soil. According to the WHO, there are about 4 million people around the world affected with podo, with the majority of those living in Ethiopia. Podo, however, is 100 percent preventable with shoes and proper foot hygiene.
We’ve come a long way from when Blake first learned about podo in Ethiopia, but there’s still much more to come. Currently TOMS is funding research — including mapping, expansion of treatment programs and clinics, patient rehabilitation and advocacy to help prevent the disease.
This year we launched TOMS Roasting Co. With every bag of coffee purchased TOMS will provide one week of clean water to a person in need. One for One.® We’ve partnered with Water For People to help provide safe water solutions in the countries we source our beans from.
During the dry season people in La Cumbre, Guatemala can go months without rain. Mothers have to bring water — often from unsafe sources — to the schools for their children to drink and clean with. With TOMS and Water For People’s support, safe and reliable water systems are reaching schools in communities like La Cumbre. With six hand-washing taps now installed, students have access to safe water, better health and the ability to stay in school.
The United States isn’t only a place we call home; it’s also where our customers’ purchases are bringing opportunity to children in need. With so much need in our own backyard, we knew we could help in a big way. Working with multiple Giving Partners to identify communities, new TOMS Shoes and prescription glasses are reaching children in more than 35 states across the United States.
TOMS Sight Giving Partner Seva Foundation began work in Cambodia in 1998 because hundreds of thousands of people were blind or visually impaired, and there were no schools to train ophthalmologists. More than 80% of the blindness in Cambodia is either preventable or curable, but the vast majority of Cambodians do not have access to quality, affordable eye care.
After last year’s devastating typhoon in the Philippines, TOMS Giving Partners were positioned to respond with shoes after immediate needs had been met. Six months later, TOMS Giving Partner AmeriCares began distributing new TOMS to children affected by Typhoon Haiyan.