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Where do your "Toms" Shoes Go?

Just saw this blog on fb, and I found it extremely interesting. It's just one person's experiences while in Uganda, and while it may not reflect how the donated Tom's shoes are distributed as a whole, I thought it was eye opening.


For those who don't want to click through (although this person could certainly use the page views) here's the pertinent bits:

"When living in Kampala, Uganda, I was regularly taking Afro-hiphop dance classes. One day, I got a text message from my teacher, saying that long-term students would receive a pair of dance shoes. At the next class, I was presented with a black pair of Toms shoes. I was curious why I, a relatively well-to-do foreigner in Uganda should be given a pair of these donated shoes, which were intended for “a child in need”.

Illustration for article titled Where do your Toms Shoes Go?

wearing my Toms shoes at dance class

I asked the dance teacher where the shoes came from. He said a huge crate of them were given to a local NGO. This NGO was supposed to distribute the shoes to whomever they felt should have them, using their own resources to do so. They were also required to arrange for and pay for storage of the shoes until they were distributed. Like most NGOs, this one was probably very busy working on a number of projects, and possibly is understaffed and underfunded. Naturally they would just want to get rid of the shoes as fast as possible, not worrying too much about who receives them. So somehow, the dance teacher ended up with a whole bag of Toms shoes.

Of course, I could have turned down the shoes. But if I did not take them they would have been given to another relatively well-off student of the dance studio, and therefore not the desired target for the Toms shoes. So I took the shoes and decided to write about the experience to show how Toms might not be quite as great as many people think. Of course this is not meant to reflect negatively on the local NGO in Uganda or the dance studio, but rather the Toms’ whole model of giving shoes to people in need."


At first I was like "oh sweet, under privileged kids getting shoes at after school care to dance in! Great!! then I realized... these kids' families were PAYING for dance classes. Not exactly a hallmark of needy people.

I'm not sure I have a question here, but I've always been slightly skeptical of this business model, especially because of the semi-problematic nature of their design. They're modelled after South American peasant shoes, and have apparently caused issues when they're given out there. No one wants to wear shoes that have a cultural meaning/implication that you are a peasant/serf.*


*extremely simplified argument from anthro classes where we talked about this.

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