Last spring, students in the North Cobb High School TOMS Club promoted ‘One Day Without Shoes,’ a campaign to raise awareness about how providing footwear to children across the globe helps promote wellness and prevent the spread of disease. NCHS English teacher and TOMS Club sponsor Laura Foster recently traveled to Peru with the TOMS team to assist with a shoe delivery and see firsthand how the club is making an impact. Read Ms. Foster’s essay about her experience below, reposted from the TOMS Community blog:
Community gives a sense of place. I was given the chance to be a member of a unique community through a TOMS Giving Trip this year. I traveled with the TOMS Team to Iquitos and Lima, Peru in September. I am an English teacher and the TOMS Club sponsor at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Georgia. I have been the sponsor since 2010 and a teacher for the past thirty years.
The TOMS Community Team called me one day to invite me on a TOMS Giving Trip as a special thank you for my support. I felt very fortunate to be selected to go on the trip.
I traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles to meet the team and embark on our journey to Lima. When I asked how I would recognize the team, I was told to look for a group of excited people wearing TOMS. Believe it or not, that was what I did. Instantly I felt welcomed by the members of the TOMS community.
When we arrived in Iquitos we had a welcome dinner and met the team from TOMS Giving Partner Operation Blessing International (OBI). By the end of the following day, we were no longer two separate teams but one. We were able to help set up businesses, paint houses, distribute iron and other medicines and last but not least, give shoes. After spending time with them, I realized what a strong sense of community the people of Peru have. TOMS and OBI are providing tools to help them make their lives better where they are. I came to understand that shoe giving isn’t really about just the shoes. Yes, the shoes help to reduce disease, but they are a part of educating the community as a whole. As a teacher, I really know the importance of including the child’s entire community to make a significant change.
We were able to see how the families were learning to cook more nutritional meals for their families. We participated in a nutritional fair at a local preschool. They were so pleased to share with us the recipes and tell us about the food. They were given prizes and in turn gave us hand-made crafts. Even though I don’t speak Spanish, it didn’t matter when it came to experiencing their gratitude through smiles and an abundance of hugs.
A special moment occurred during the shoe giving at an elementary school. The little girl that I was helping had several sores on her foot. I asked Dr. Sandra Arabaiza from OBI if we needed to put something on her foot. She said that they were marks from mosquito bites. After I got her shoes on, she jumped up, grabbed me around the neck and gave me a hug. The feeling from her gratitude is indescribable. It is humbling to realize how much I take for granted every day.
After 10,500 miles of travel, I still felt exhilarated when I returned home. I was so excited to get back and share the stories with my family, friends and students, but I missed getting up each day and feeling that I was making a difference and working with such a great group of people. It has taken me several weeks to process all of the experiences that I had in one week. The memories that I share with the TOMS Team and the OBI Team have really altered my life. I hope that my students and others in my life will be able to realize a part of my experience and will be inspired to make a difference in the lives of others.