You've probably heard of Toms Shoes and their Soles4Souls program (for each pair of the comfy canvas slips-ons purchased, a pair is donated to a child in need). Well, Asheville's Sole Hope works in a similar way — helping needy children in Africa while also providing jobs locally.
"We are based out of Asheville because we love the community here and the groups of socially minded people who reside in Asheville," says founder Asher Collie. In 2010 she came across a YouTube video that shows children having parasites removed from their feet. Without access to closed-toed shoes, millions of children in Africa are affected by jiggers that, if untreated, can lead to infection and possible amputation. A trip to Africa confirmed not only this tragedy, but the fact that the parents of these children had no way to support their families. An idea was born: to fashion closed-toed shoes with cloth uppers and recycled soles, and to hire those in need of a job to construct the shoes. And so Sole Hope was born.
The goal for 2012, Collie says, "is to make and sell 4,200 pairs of shoes in Asheville. … Because of additional donations from individuals who believe in our mission, plus we give a pair of shoes for every shoe we sell in the U.S., we are hoping to protect at least 9,000 children's feet in 2012."
Currently, "All of our shoemakers for the baby shoes are employed locally," says Collie. To take the social program to the next level, another goal for the new year is to employ homeless men and women in Asheville to fashion the locally sold children's shoes. For now, Collie says, "We hope to be able to get more people in the U.S. excited about helping others, giving of their time/talents and making more people aware of the diseases that enter through the feet that are ultimately harming the future of children in Third World countries like Africa."
Purchase Sole Hope baby shoes at Garage 34 (34 S. Lexington Ave., http://g34avl.com), or online at http://www.solehope.com.