Walk this way

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KOST - making a difference in Kenya
8 June 2015

Walk this way


When I was fourteen, I got my first ever pair of platform-soled shoes. This was the seventies, and everything was up for grabs: colour was all and extravagance the name of the game. I know we’re not allowed to mention Gary Glitter anymore, but Glam Rock was definitely ‘it’ and my shoes reflected that. They were parrot-bright in red, yellow and green. I remember particularly the platforms and heels, acid lemon as they were. Fantastic! Up to then, I’d only been allowed sensible Clark’s numbers, or demure party shoes; or wellies and plimsolls. Life didn’t get more glamorous than those platform shoes.

This started my life-long love affair with shoes. (Imelda Marcos is a name that comes up fairly frequently in our house.) As Marilyn Monroe said: ‘Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.’

David and I share a shoe rack. His ‘half’ is about 30% of it, while mine is at least 90%. Well a girl needs so many shoes, so many more than a man. After all, we need different ones to go with both skirts and trousers; we need high and low-heeled; comfortable and ‘taxi’; in all possible colour combinations, the list is endless.
Yet shoes are not just a consumable:

Last night I happened upon a programme with Kate Humble called ‘Living with Nomads’ where the Raute, the last remaining nomadic peoples of Nepal, were being filmed. I found what a government representative said about them very telling: he explained that they were trying to help the Raute. His comment was: “gradually they will not remain barefooted all the time.” Whether buying shoes was the right thing for the Raute remains a matter of debate, but the official’s focus on shoes was telling: if you are in poverty, you simply can’t afford shoes.

We spend most of our waking life walking or standing and shoes are needed to protect our feet from the hazards of our environment. What’s more, in certain countries, they are a first line of defence against parasitic diseases. And wearing them can be a requirement of attending school. Yet, the number of barefoot orphaned children, in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, is estimated to be above 20 million, according to the charity ‘soles for souls’. http://soles4souls.org/why-shoes.
According to their website, shoes are vital in protecting a child’s health:
“Many serious health conditions can be absorbed through the feet, even through the toughest soles. As the skin on the bottom of the feet toughens and thickens, large cracks can form, which allows parasitic infections such as hookworm and threadworm to penetrate the skin. In addition, constant cuts and scrapes to the feet and ankles frequently become infected and many of these infections can lead to ulcers and worse.
Some of the most dangerous conditions of going barefoot is the risk of puncture wounds, cuts, scrapes and burns to the feet. These injuries are almost never treated and can lead to serious infections, amputations and even death. With the number of children living in abject poverty and therefore surviving at a scavenger’s existence, the feet are at tremendous risk as the child hunts for food or household items in garbage dumps, abandoned housing/construction areas, or while crossing through open sewer trenches and contaminated areas.
In addition to infections brought on by external injuries, a child’s bare foot is particularly at risk of infection by hookworm. Especially at risk are children living in African and Southeast Asian countries, where hookworm infections are about 60 times more common.”

This is where a charity like KOST can come in: last year, in June, KOST paid out £150.37 for new shoes and socks for 18 of the children in their care; in 2015 they have paid £201. This means that the children can go to school, and anyone who’s read my ‘We don’t need no education’ blog post will know how that can change a child’s life. Doesn’t sound a lot huh? Bet you couldn’t get many pairs of Glam rock platform soles for that nowadays. But of course it’s only a very small part of what KOST provide for the children: they also buy their clothes, their uniforms, their underwear, their slippers, their medication, their education…..

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