The Journey to LaFond…
Deep in the mountains, at the center of Haiti’s iconic peninsula, lies the foggy village of LaFond. Tucked away, as if hidden from the rest of the world, a church and school are nestled in a small valley overlooking rolling highlands, pines, and thick clay soil.
The trail from our cabin into the valley was slick, treacherous, dampened from recent rains, and studded with loose rock and thick mud. I couldn’t help to think that the 10-minute descent down the mountain, and the subsequent heart-pounding return ascent, was a fraction of the miles that the children of LaFond walk every day to receive their education. REBUILD globally’s journey to LaFond was planned with great anticipation.
The Impact Shoe Begins with a Partnership
Jayme Hazen, Chief Administrator for Reach Out – an organization committed to supporting the community of LaFond – came to our manufacturing center months earlier with a desire to have school shoes made in Haiti. Explaining that the children of LaFond so desperately needed proper footwear for school, Jayme asked if they could be crafted at deux mains designs. The idea of the Impact Shoe was born, and Reach Out funded the first order. After months of research & development, with forty shoes in tow, we traveled 6 hours outside of Port Au Prince to make the groundbreaking first distribution of the Impact Shoe together.
A New Way of Giving
Inside the sixth grade classroom, students dressed in burgundy checkered uniforms sat on wooden benches; attentive and curious. Admittedly, I was nervous. I have participated in distributions in Haiti in the past, and my collective experiences left me deeply conflicted. Our natural instinct when faced with extreme poverty is an overwhelming desire to help, and the distributions procured from donations have been deemed a simple way to fix the problems that poverty presents. Unfortunately, however, the effects of aid of this nature have repeatedly been conducted with little concern to the rippling effects of the negative economic consequences.
It was crucial that these young people knew why the Impact Shoe is different. I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency. They needed to understand: this was not a standard shoe drop. These were not second-hand shoes collected in an American church, the donors inspired by pity for their situation. On the contrary, by receiving the Impact Shoe, these young people would become an integral part of a powerful movement. They were the final piece of the groundbreaking puzzle.
A Shoe Made by Haitians for Haitians
“These shoes were made for you, by Haitian men and women in Port Au Prince,” I explained. They create jobs in Haiti, and are made with the most durable materials.”
When inspecting the shoes, the students were transfixed. Studying the soles made from tires and the upper material woven from recycled plastic, they giggled with excited energy. I continued on, “By wearing these shoes, you are making a statement. You are helping REBUILD globally continue to provide jobs in your country, while cleaning the streets.”
My eyes dropped to floor level, examining the students’ current footwear. Torn and ripped, many of the soles were coming loose. They were stained from mud, and many toes were sticking through the front seams, fully exposed.
“I have seen the trails you walk to school,” I said. “I know that the shoes you wear do not survive the daily journey. This is my promise to you: because the shoes you will receive today are made in Haiti, if they tear or fall apart, our team will fix them for free. These shoes are guaranteed.”
Suddenly, the entire classroom burst into applause. A tangible electric energy seared through them, their bodies trembling. This was the point that resonated the most audibly. They were being given a quality product; a product they could count on.
Eagerly, the students stood and followed us into the Director’s Office. The Impact Shoes were lined up on the floor – each uniquely prepared for the students’ individual foot sizes. One by one they walked over and tried on their shoes. When asked to walk in them, the young girls strutted, like models on a runway, their smiles bursting at the seams. This was unlike any distribution I had ever seen before.
Rather than inducing gratitude, the Impact Shoe was inducing pride.
After all of the shoes had been assigned to their new owners, we entered back into the classroom, and the students erupted into spontaneous applause for a second time, exclaiming, “BRAVO! BRAVO!” The energy was contagious and Jayme and I looked at each other, our mouths stretched into beaming smiles, and our eyes welling with tears.
Before we left, we asked for feedback on the fit and design. One little girl replied with assuredness, “I am particularly pleased and proud because I know my shoes were made by a Haitian.” I gave her a high five. I couldn’t agree more.
Thanks to the generosity of Jayme and Reach Out, forty students in LaFond now have a pair of the most impactful shoes on the planet.
So, what comes next for the most impactful shoe on the planet?
There are two hundred additional students at LaFond who are still in need of the Impact Shoe. Our goal is to make sure every student has a pair for when they return to school after the summer holidays.
Please consider joining us on this journey by purchasing a pair to be designated to one of the remaining students!