“Whether giving away 50 pairs of shoes or 50,000, there wouldn’t be enough to meet the demand in Haiti.” Very profound words by Samuel Darguin, Executive Director of Haitian American Caucus, a micro enterprising movement he began four years ago to improve the lives of Haitian Americans by providing them with education and essential business tools.

 

Darguin would know. He’s there on the frontline, along with their partnering company and one of our clothing brands, Soles4Souls. Since 2006, S4S has been fulfilling their mission to fight poverty globally by distributing shoes and clothes to the poor. To date, they’ve handled over 26 million pairs of shoes going to 127 countries and to all 50 states.

 

S4S sends a container of shoes to HACU in Haiti every 45 days. A container weighs 25,000 pounds, which equates to approx. 20,000 shoes. Haiti is labeled as the poorest country of the Americas. There are about 10.32 million people living within Haiti’s 10,714 square miles. In 2010, they suffered the worst earthquake in 200 years, felt the brunt of a major hurricane and dealt with a cholera outbreak that claimed many lives—all within that one year’s span. As one can imagine, the locals anxiously await those 20,000 pairs of shoes every 45 days.

 

All the more reason Zappos’ charitable group, Zappos for Good, felt humbled and grateful to be a part of S4S and HACU’s distributing efforts. This past January, after months of collecting donated shoes and clothing from our employees as well as our customers, four Zapponians accompanied our donations to Haiti to experience firsthand the impact of those distributions in the recipient coastal region of Montrouis.

 

Jeremy Kettle and Todd Martin from our Give Team (an integral extension of Zappos for Good), and Mikey Mineeraj and Sarah Weinbaum from our Audio Visual Team, along with S4S’s COO, David Graben, helped carry out the function of HACU’s grass roots program.

 

How does the program work?

Instead of donating the goods directly to those in need, the items are first distributed to women in the community who are involved in the micro enterprising program. These women have been trained to initiate and operate their own businesses and the donated goods become their inventory. These women are now able to build their own homes, put their children in schools and support their families and community with the profit from the sale of their goods. The people of the community are able to afford the donated goods which are sold to them by the women at a very low price. Everyone wins!

 

Jeremy and Todd shared with me their amazement over how the crowds of people waiting for those shoes blossomed from several dozen to a couple hundred within just minutes. Due to the language barrier, there wasn’t much interaction with the people gathering there. However, because huge smiles and elated expressions are universal, they knew those receiving the much awaited shoes and clothes were forever grateful.

 

So, go ahead, clean out your closet.  Gather up those shoes you haven’t worn for two or more years. Whether you’re an employee, customer or a friend of Zappos go to http://www.zappos.com/zapposforgood/give and donate away!  From this day forward, I have a whole new awakening regarding the items I donate. Won’t you join me?

 

Love & RAWspect,

Terri, aka t-RAW

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