My guest today is Mona Purdy, founder of The Share Your Soles Foundation. Welcome to OpEdNews, Mona. You've been "in business" for the past eleven years. And you fell into it, in the first place, almost by chance. Can you tell our readers about it? "¨ "¨
Mona at work by Mona Purdy
It started in 1999; friends of mine in Guatemala requested my help in obtaining supplies like cycling tape and water bottles for their cycling team. I have a reputation for being a resourceful person and I raised the funds for them through donations of friends and neighbors. Instead of mailing the goods to them, I decided to take the trip to Guatemala because the cost to mail these items was more expensive than a plane ticket.
Upon my arrival with the supplies, I entered a half-marathon in a small village. I noticed the children cheering us on had painted hot tar on their feet instead of wearing shoes because they didn't have anything to protect their feet. As a result of this practice, many of the children were having health problems. It was pointed out to me by a traveling orthopedic surgeon that he would not need to travel to the region as much to perform limb amputations if the children had proper shoes.
This inspired me, so when I got back home, I started gathering as many shoes as I could from neighborhood schools and families. The response was overwhelming and I brought the shoes to an orphanage in Guatemala. I figured my good deed was done but as I was leaving, one of the workers at the orphanage asked me when I was coming back. I wasn't going to return but on the flight home, I kept hearing lyrics from a Diana Ross song, "Reach and touch someone's hand make this world a better place if you can." I could and decided I needed to take action.
And you sure did! And all this came about because the cost of mailing the original supplies you collected was too high. Have you been back to that orphanage since then?
I returned to Guatemala shortly thereafter with more shoes and also delivered shoes to villages in Honduras.
Tell us how your project has grown since that initial trip, Mona.
We have always been able to provide immediate disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami that affected Asia, the fires in the western United States, the tornadoes in the Midwest, floods and earthquakes in Haiti. We hope to assist Pakistan next. When choosing these locations I not only factor in the urgent needs of the victims but how accessible are the affected areas. I also must consider the safety of the affected areas, as we need to accomplish our mission of serving others without putting our own lives in too deep of danger.
Logistics are always a challenge, The Amazon is one place where Share Your Soles used a variety of transportation to accomplish of mission. To deliver the shoes, we took one commercial flight, one charter flight, one large ship, one small power boat, and finally, canoes. It was time and lots of fatigue but well worth it as the mission a beautiful success!!!
You aren't kidding. You also utilize local events as springboards for this project. For example, we just had the Chicago Marathon. How did Share Your Soles figure in it?
Ten years ago, I went to meet up with the director of the Marathon and he was touched by our work but more or less told me we were an unknown organization and to come back when we were better known. Ha ha. Well, that moment I was so angry but looking back, it was one of the best kicks in the pants I could have ever gotten. I tell people, "My overnight success only took 11 years." Being a part of personal achievement like the Bank of America Marathon was one of my biggest events I have dreamed of. The energy was ridiculous. People bringing us their shoes. It was a total love fest!!
That's wonderful: another example of learning how to make lemonade. What else are you working on right now that you can share with our readers?
I want the production company to soar. Bringing
our work into others' lives will inspire, educate and empower. Not many people have
opportunities to go to remote villages and impact communities like we do.
Tell us more about the production company, please.
the past several years, I see how kids here really don't SEE the lives of kids
in everyday life in underdeveloped countries. It brings a lot to them to know
the end result of where the shoes they donate to Share Your Soles end up. Hearts
and minds are both expanded by live footage from my return trips.