Friday, December 26, 2008


With the experience of purchasing and shipping under my belt I am feeling bloated. I have long forgotten the hardship of the first encounter because I am off to another adventure. I am thinking that I am on EASY STREET but I had a rude awakening. I have googled{this is my new way of figuring out things} and found out where this distant village is located and garnered satisfying background information. The marketing manager has filled out the required application and has stated the amount of soccer shoes needed in each size. I am all revved up and ready to go shopping for 45 boys under 11 years old, living in the Songeni Village, South Africa.

Then I hit a roadblock. Try as I might I was unable to get the correct answer to what I thought was a very simple question: Are the shoes sizes in South Africa, the same as the sizes in USA? If not what is the equivalent? After numerous E-mails, all I have ended up with are conflicting answers. Even when I googled to the various web sites and there are plenty, I did not get any closer to the answer I sought. I took my question to the "man in the street"{people from the same Continent} and this is the answer I received: "In Senegal we use the European sizes but as for South Africa we are not sure if they go by the UK or European sizes." I am getting warmer and I thanked them for the warmth and honesty.

My steadfast search took me to a great web site in South Africa with mention of Nike as a sponsor to a few of their events. This I thought was my AHA moment. They invited you to E-mail if you had any questions. I gambled, thinking that if I gave a little praise about the wonders of the web site, it would elicit a response. I posed the same pressing question and almost instantaneously there was a reply. This was the dry response: The sizes are according to age.

Now I am in real trouble, I could not decipher what this terse message meant. I have read it over and over, I have shared it with high powered, knowledgeable persons{people who live in sneakers, buy sneakers backed by NBA players, people who do not own a pair of ordinary shoes, by choice, etc.} They too stumbled.

I am starting from ZERO. I cleared the commotion from my head and had a conversation with ME.
Your mission is to put a smile on the faces of these young boys and a brand new pair of soccer shoes on their feet.
You are ready to purchase, package and mail the goods.
You are ready to remove all obstacles and let this happen.
So I took matters in my hands and went to the other expert, a household member who googled and let me read about the purchasing of shoes in South Africa, there was the information I sought, in plain daylight. How could I have missed this? And now, I even have in my possession an International shoe size Conversion Charts/ Converter Tables for shoes sizes. After all sending the wrong sizes would do no good.

I continue to learn valuable lessons, having lots of patience is one of them. Watch out for updates in the Songeni Village Soccer Club. Who knows what lies ahead! What I know for sure is that if the shoes fit you can wear them.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

You Wouldn't Want To Be In Their Shoes{The Plight}

The heels have grown thick with calluses and sometimes the pain is unbearable, these feet have not seen good fitting shoes in years.

The young child could hardly walk, his toes were squeezed together in the hand me down shoes that were two sizes too small, but that's all he has to wear. Everyday he wished for a pair of shoes his right size, black and shiny.

What are you doing? Placing a thick cardboard inside your shoes. Oh I see, to keep water from coming in when it rains and it is always raining in this part of the world.

Just the other day I got a wide gash on the bottom of my feet. I cleaned up the wound, tied it up with an old rag and hopped to school because I did not want to miss a day.

The back is gone and the feet dangles from what is left, barely giving support.

This pair seems to be in better shape, but look there are holes in the bottom. The gravel from the dirt road find its way inside the shoes and the young child is constantly stopping to shake them out.

I am a city kid and all around me are gorgeous looking shoes in every color imaginable, every size and shape. And all I can do is stare through the window and wish upon a star.

The thongs have worn thin and the back of the feet touches the pavement where the rubber no longer exists.

What used to be perhaps fine leather has become discolored from long wear. The stitches have began to separate at the sides. Not able to part with the only pair of shoes she owns, she uses bark from the tree to serve as laces to keep it together a little longer.

Chigger are nesting between the little kids toes, feeding on the flesh. The only care is the leaves from the "medicine trees." The elders wrap the kids feet in a piece of cloth soaked in juice from the leaves, hoping to draw out the parasites.

The soccer team is upbeat, they are on a winning streak but they wondered how long this will last. The goalies shoes have seen better days, their toes are pushing through the open gap. The shoes of the other team members are in bad shape too. The soles of the shoes are so worn that the socks sweep the ground. The heels of the shoes are worn to bare thread. Playing barefooted may be a better bet, except the field is full of sharp objects left over from others who share the run down space call playing field.

Oh what would I give for a pair of new shoes, that are easy on my feet. We hear your plea and we are trying to make a difference with a happy ending to boot. Putting a brand new pair of shoes on your feet and a smile on your face is the mission of the CHOOSE TO CARE organization.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Operating on a shoestring

Often times I am reminded of the biblical story of the widow's mite because she gave what she had. I am also reminded just as often of the abundance of fishes and loaves that appeared by the seaside to feed a multitude of people, although at first it seemed that there would not be enough to go around. And so with these 2 stories etched in my mind and my strong belief that you start with what you have and better will come; I am always dreaming up projects and operating on a shoestring budget to accomplish what I set out to do.

So when I met the Manager of the place where my mother and I stayed while vacationing in South Africa and he was so passionate about the soccer team in his village, miles away from his workplace I knew I had met another shoestring operator. He uses money from his small salary to sponsor the Songeni Village Soccer Club. There are 45 boys who are in need of good-fitting soccer shoes and jerseys. I am sitting here "cooking" up ways to purchase the goods and have them reach their destination safely. With little money in the till, things are tight but that does not stop me from seeing a new pair of shoes on their feet and a smile on their faces. And I also envision from the end of the field that kick that scored the winning goal. They are hoping for a miracle and it will happen because we dared to make a move, albeit on a shoestring budget. More to come.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Glimpse Into The Traveling Shoes

It is easier said than done. So I discovered when I set out to purchase shoes for 124 students from a remote countryside call Chambellan in Haiti. A colleague of mine has been building a high school in this town and although it is incomplete, children have been attending classes. Since it is my desire to provide shoes for the very poor children who sometimes trek to school barefooted or wear shoes that can barely support their feet; I jumped at the chance to assist. Good practice I thought, while I go about the business of setting up an organization that would carry on this mission; to protect the feet of needy children and young adults by placing a new pair of shoes on their feet and a smile on their faces. Armed with a list of various sizes, I just knew this would be a breeze. "Please give me a size 6 and a 9 of this beauty in brown." What could be so difficult?

For a start, deals are hard to come by. On the good old internet I found a shoe store that claimed some incredible prices, right up my alley. When you get there, it is a different story. The lower prices are few and the shoes are unattractive and would not last a day on any terrain. The better looking ones are of a higher price and although more choices are available, there was not enough in one store to complete my shopping; it would take four evenings, four different stores in four different areas of town to do the job.

Then came the packing; in order not to separate the sizes, some helpful salespersons in two of the stores wrapped many of the shoes in individula bags and gave additional bags to finish the job at home. My colleague had the task of making sure the shoes reached their destination. She was the bearer of good tidings since she was returning to Chambellan to see about her organization's affairs.

This is the story she told. Before leaving JFK there was problem. She had to send back to her home in Brooklyn, eleven(11) pairs of shoes and even if she wanted to pay, she was not allowed to take not even one iota more on the plane. With airline restrictions, this was painful but understandable. The arrival in Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti was not easy either. More money had to be paid. Although my colleague had papers to show that she was a legitimate non-profit organization, the custom agents let her know that may be so in the USA but it means nothing in Haiti. "How do we know that you are not going to sell the shoes?" they asked. On the custom agents' advice she has begun the paperwork that will allow the NY based organization to be also recognized in Haiti.

It was not over yet. The small plane that would take my colleague and her family to Chambellan wanted their share of the pie. Again she had to pay and again we understood. By the end of the journey the value of these shoes had risen and we had learned valuable lessons about transporting goods in a foreign country and having the gift of perseverance. Stay tune for more on the distribution process and maybe some photos. By the way, those eleven(11) pairs that were sent back home to Brooklyn, later found their way to Chambellan via a kind soul.

This first shipment is a dedication to my colleague, HELEN ADDERLY EBONG who departed from this earth some months ago. "Dear Helen, the plans we had in our youth to help the children of the world seemed so easy at the time. I promise I will do whatever possible to make a difference. just like we said we would. You a lover of shoes must be smiling down on our mission."