I was born and brought up in village Tangra, where my father runs a small flour mill. Paying for my education was a challenge for my family and me at times. All my parents had, they spent each penny on my education and made me capable of running successful businesses. My husband has always been a great motivator throughout my entrepreneurial journey. Being from a rural background, I have always been closest to population. Today I keep on between India and United States for my work and to be with my husband in States. However, I chose to be closer to my roots where I can continuously support the neediest, so I spend majority time in a year in my village, which has the centralized operational office of my businesses and my NGO Smiles.Care.
During my visit to an elementary school in my village Tangra, once I saw a dead shoe, and then I saw another one and I saw hundreds of dead shoes in various elementary schools in the villages around.
I thought what could be even worse than a dead, a ripped off , and thenI saw beautiful angels wearing dead slippers, the beautiful princesses wearing ripped off slippers.My heart broke million times. My heart cried, I moved around to the slums nearby my village and found kids with no shoes at all, injured and dead skin was giving me goosebumps,triggering my soul to take a good initiative.
I tried to look for the stories behind, the painful stories behind the innocence wearing the dead slippers. Poverty due to drug addicted parents and poverty due to illiteracy and unavailability of work are the primary reasons. A girl shared that her father died of drugs a few months back and she has two more sisters, and a brother and her mother is the only breadwinner in the family. They hardly can make both ends meet, buying a shoe is a luxury, and even if she gets a chance to buy one, she will get first for her younger siblings as for them the pain of walking bare feet is unbearable.
A boy Jagbir Singh studying in class 3rd in elementary school of village Raipur Khurd in Punjab has AIDS. Both his parents died of Aids, and his grandparents are taking care of him. It is tough for him to manage his medicines. Managing weekly travel from village to city hospital is even tougher. How can he afford a pair of shoe?
For families for whom putting nutritious food or required medicines on the table is a huge struggle. It is tough to think of a new pair of shoe. Such reasons make kids remain bare feet or go to school just in slippers even in extreme winters.
According to WHO report, 23% of the global deaths been linked to the environment, and soil pollution is one major part of the environment. Global deaths related to the environment are approx. 12.6 million deaths a year. Not wearing a shoe or dressed in a ripped off slippers with no proper sole leads to intestinal infections caused by whip worms, , tapeworms, hookworms, etc. These parasitic infections adversely affect nutritional status and impair (Damage) cognitive process. Intestinal worms lead to , acute abdominal pain, weakness, chronic intestinal blood loss that results in .
When the worm burden increases inside the intestines, it may cause complications that require surgical interventions. Many diseases such as Mycetoma are chronic, progressively inflammatory diseases affecting skin, muscles and even bones. Transmission of such diseases occurs through injuries to feet, even the minor injuries from thorn pricks. Infection may be silent and painless initially, however, can cause severe pain later. What it canlead to, is deformity of bones, disability and serious infections inside the body affecting the entire human system leading to the death.
Being in depth of the neglected diseases which starts from walking bare feet or not wearing proper shoes, I was triggered to work on Shoe Giving causeespecially for kids up to the age of 10. Along with my team of few volunteers,I initiated 10,000 to give mission this year.
We identified two areas to give shoes. The govt elementary schools in Villages and the slums. We did a pilot run, where we analysed that kids in slums are not at all used to wear shoes and not even aspire to wear because they do not go to school and not even have slippers. We chose to give them slippers.
Whereas the kids in government elementary schools in villages often come in slippers or torn slippers and they aspire to wear pair of shoes. Also, in extreme winters it is tough for them to attend school without shoes as they have to wear slippers. We chose elementary schools for giving shoes as even teachers can take care or ask kids to wear shoes daily. 90% focus remains on providing shoes in elementary schools.
Initially, I started with self-contribution to the cause, and with each campaign, I started posting live videos, photos, and videos of every shoe giving campaign on social media. The Shoe Giving Campaigns got viral all over the region and even grabbed the attention of Indians living abroad. Many found themselves connected to the community and cause by watching our live videos. Thousands of people started watching our live videos as well as our experience of each campaign, resulting in continuous contribution to the cause voluntarily as well as monetary, from all parts of the globe. I kept on increasing my self-contributions every month, working even harder on my businesses.
We also started with Fundraising by creating gaming zones in various shopping malls in the major cities.
Today more than half a million well-wishers support and encourage us every day through social media channels. In last eight months, we successfully delivered smiles and comfort to over 3000 kids by giving them a new pair of shoes at more than 61 locations which include 55 schools and six slum areas.
The idea of Shoe Giving spread to other cities and states, where now and then people started sending us video clips and photographs of the shoe giving campaigns they are conducting at their locations. Many villages invited our team to participate along with them. More than 1000 shoes have been distributed in last quarter to kids by our well-wishers and fans every day get inspiration from our work. We found the idea spreading very fast, where hundreds of volunteers and donors from all parts of the region started contributing together.
The giving emerges from gratefulness, from being thankful. If we are not grateful enough for what we have, we cannot be a true or a genuine giver.
Be thankful for the breath, which otherwise we take for granted. Think about people who have a severe lung problem, who climb mountains, who have just quit smoking. Even breathing is a big challenging task for them.
Be thankful for the money you have. Think about the neediest, for whom it’s hard to pay essential bills of food and medicines their family.
Be thankful for the food; you are getting with so much ease; there are still many places on the earth where people die of hunger.
Be thankful for the water you drink and even the luxurious form of it like sodas, juices, etc. There are places on this earth where people wait for water for days.
Be thankful for the clothes and shoes you have. You have them not only for seasons like summers and winters. You have a variety of clothes and shoes to enjoy fashion, , and styles. Think of a child wearing no clothes in winters and just going in broken slippers to school every day. Can you imagine yourself going to college, office in broken slippers or different or slipper on each foot?
If we are not thankful for what we have, we will never gather the courage to start Giving. Giving is the ultimate trait, I wish every human being possess. Giving develop natural capabilities us to stay happier and peaceful. We never know if we will wake up tomorrow or not. We should not wait for tomorrow to start thinking to Give. Today is the time. Do not lose the opportunity to help others when you already exist, do not miss the opportunity to make someone genuinely smile. Giving is your ultimate way to peace and happiness. Choose to Give. Choose to love.
My honest writings
Mandeep Kaur Sidhu