Tag Archives: Zambia

A Farewell to TOMS

TOMSAs I prepare to embark on three weeks of volunteering in Africa, I can’t help but reflect on some of the ongoing issues with providing aid to the continent. An analysis of the cause and effects of various aid schemes is vitally important if organizations are to understand whether their programs help or harm local people and economies. This article, published by the Matador Network, looks at SEVEN terrible international aid ideas, including the largely touted TOMS one-for-one shoe program. Built on the business model of manufacturing two cheap pairs of shoes for the price of one good pair (using labor and materials from China), author Richard Stupart argues that TOMS has the potential to completely destroy the market for shoes in the towns and villages where truckloads of free shoes are shipped and delivered. Journalist Amy Costello and host of Tiny Spark makes a great point here:

We think that by simply giving people things that we enjoy – like soccer balls or shoes – that we are somehow doing good…And I think that we really need to start questioning that a lot more, and figuring out is there something we can do that is a lot more effective? [Are] consumer products what a impoverished community needs?

Here is what I think….

Like Stupart and Costello argue, giving someone a free pair of shoes does not end their poverty, or provide them a job, it just provides shoes. Yes, I freely admit that shoes are vitally important for improving health standards and cutting down on a number of health issues from communicable diseases to infections that are usually spread by cuts and wounds suffered by exposed feet. And yes, in some areas of the world children are denied access to school without a pair of shoes, so providing them with a pair gets them one step closer to an education. And YES, if you look in my closet I have a pair of well-worn, well-traveled TOMS.

HOWEVER after learning more about the company and the ways in which free “stuff-we-don’t-want” can devastate local economies that are in desperate need of their citizens to invest money and BUY local, I will never buy another pair of TOMS. In all my travels to “developing” countries, the message is loud and clear: “please buy local!” Don’t give to beggars on the street because it disincentives them to go seek real work. Don’t buy $60 worth of school supplies at the Dollar Store and ship them to your orphanage in Tanzania, buy these supplies in town and support the local economy.

buy localEven here in Louisville you see everywhere the huge push to buy local. Places like NuLu actively promote the use of local produce and community gardens have spread across the city. Keep Louisville Weird is another popular initiative for Louisvillians to eat/buy/sell/stay local. Everywhere the message is the same–why pay to have things imported when we can make it/buy it/grow it/ manufacture it here?! And why should it be any different in other cities and towns across the world? If I can buy school supplies from a Zambian market to give to Zambian children to be used in a Zambian school, isn’t that better than importing my cheap Dollar Store crap made in China bought in Louisville?

Regarding the issue of shoes and school– shoes are not the only barrier keeping children from going to school. In countries around the world, particularly African countries like Uganda and Zambia, the school fees charged by government schools are far above what the average family living below the poverty line can afford. In these cases, it’s not a matter of if a child has shoes to go to school, the families cannot pay the fees either way.

So you can buy a pair of TOMS Blue Basket Weave Women’s Desert Wedges for $185.00 and tell yourself you are at the same time in some way abstractly helping a shoeless child, or you can take that money, donate it to an on-the-ground organization like Dream Livingstone Zambia that works directly with orphaned and poor children, and pay over SEVEN months of school fees for a very real, very needy child.

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Help Emily Teach in Zambia

Hello Friends & Family,

I am coming to you with exciting news! I have been accepted by International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ), to go and teach English for THREE weeks in Livingstone, Zambia!! This is an amazing opportunity for me, but it will not be possible unless I receive financial support through the generous donations of family and friends.

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FIRST: Why should you donate to help me teach in Zambia?
–Because without financial support I simply cannot make this happen. IVHQ is an international program that links volunteers from all over the world to ongoing projects. They work very hard to make the programs as affordable as possible. For three weeks in Zambia, I would receive all my meals, housing, and transportation for the low fee of $490 (that’s only $23/day)! HOWEVER, just the airfare to and from Zambia is $2,500!! I also have to get a visa and shots for yellow fever and malaria (ugh!)

–More importantly, due to Zambia’s rapidly growing population and shortage of government funding and teachers, local communities have informally developed “community schools” to serve the immense need for education. A number of these schools offer reduced fees or free admission to students in need, many of whom are orphaned or living with elderly family members. These schools depend heavily on the involvement of volunteer teachers as the ratio of students to teachers can be as high as 60 to 1.
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SECOND: What will I get out of this experience?
–This will be my first time to Africa, and my first time volunteer teaching abroad! As most of you know, volunteerism and community service have always been very important to me, but with my hectic academic schedule for the past six years I have not been able to participate in any international volunteer experiences. I am all set to start my PhD in the fall so now is the best, maybe the ONLY time to teach abroad!
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THIRD: What’s in it for YOU if you donate?
–Not only will you earn my undying gratitude if you help me make this happen, but I have some fun prizes for anyone who contributes (see my reward section).

–BONUS: come tax season, your donation through GoFundMe is considered a “personal gift” which is not taxed as income in the U.S.
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Every dollar donated gets me one step closer to making this opportunity a reality! If you want to know more about Zambia or IVHQ, contact me!

Much Love,

Emily

Zambia

Zambia