Introducing Africa by Sarah T.

January 24, 2014 by TOMS

This Spring, we’re excited to take you along on a journey we recently had in East Africa. From Shoe Giving in the hills of Rwanda to visiting rural eye clinics in Tanzania, our trip was jam-packed with adventure and opportunities to learn about the incredible work our TOMS Giving Partners are doing on the ground every day. Today, we’re handing the floor over to Sarah, a Giving Account Specialist at TOMS, who has a focus on building relationships with our Partners in Africa. She has a wealth of knowledge on East Africa and helped guide us along the journey. Take it away, Sarah:

 

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Prior to working at TOMS, I spent my last 10 years working in international development. I lived in East Africa for several years before joining TOMS, so it was extremely special to go back, especially to visit TOMS Giving Partners.

A large part of TOMS Shoe Giving is focused in Africa because small investments, like shoes, can have a tremendous impact on the life of a child. TOMS works with partners all over Africa in childhood health, education and well-being programs. Our Partners in Africa do amazing and innovative work to reach communities, empowering them to move forward every day. For example, school uniforms are mandatory in many of the countries where we work, and shoes are a part of that uniform. Many children are prevented from attending school because their families cannot afford to provide uniforms for them, which is why a project like the one we visited with our Shoe Giving Partner, Global Communities, is so important. Having the opportunity to attend school is such a vital component for a child’s brighter future.

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The people we spent time with on this trip were warm and friendly, and made us feel like we had known each other for a long time. We were welcomed into people’s homes and shared meals with each other; we learned about their challenges and successes living in East Africa. We also had the opportunity to learn from two of our amazing Giving Partners: We saw how Global Communities is integrating new TOMS Shoes through school uniform programs and financial literacy trainings, adding a new layer in to the impact we have seen TOMS Shoes have in the field. And in Tanzania, Sight Giving Partner Kilimanjaro Community Center for Ophthalmology (KCCO) is doing incredible work, reaching some of the most impoverished and rural communities to provide sight services to those without access. It is through the work of our Partners that we’ve seen people take the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and create a better life for themselves and for their families.

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Looking back on this trip, its warmth has really stuck with me. It was adventurous, fun and full of heart, but it didn’t come without a lot of hard work for both our Giving Partners and TOMS. It’s so important for us to be in that place — for us to understand the innovations our Giving Partners use in the way they distribute shoes or how they allocate funds for sight restoration.

And for me: East Africa It’s a place I care about so deeply, that I’m excited to raise awareness and highlight the incredible communities and people we’ve met. I’m eager to share with the larger TOMS community something so special.

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