Close your eyes …. Imagine coming to school with no shoes on …. it might not be too bad on a beautiful balmy summer’s day but imagine it’s the middle of winter …. it is cold and dark outside …. it is raining …. your family doesn’t own a car, so you have to walk ….. Across the world, more than 300 million people cannot afford shoes. Without shoes, people have trouble getting to school or work, so it’s harder for them to get an education or contribute to the household income. In addition, going barefoot presents a number of hazards, from burns and injury to catching an illness or disease. In New Zealand over 300,000 children are living under the income poverty line. That is close to 30% of all children. Shoes are one of those basic items families living in poverty often go without. When it comes down to a choice of paying the rent, keeping the power on or buying food, shoes get pushed aside.
Close your eyes again .… now imagine having to play sport with no shoes …. how would it feel to play hockey barefoot? .... Netball? ….. Football? …. Would you even want to? Our country has the third largest percentage of inactive, overweight and obese children in the world and over 1/3rd of New Zealand children are overweight or obese. Obesity can affect a child’s health, education and quality of life and is associated with asthma, psychological problems, body dissatisfaction, poor self-esteem and depression. Lack of suitable footwear is often given as a reason for low participation in sports, leading to a lack of exercise and the rise of inactivity-related health and social issues.
Finally, close your eyes for the very last time …. Imagine what the world would look like if no one recycled or re-used old shoes. How high would the pile of used shoes be? Each year over 25 billion pairs of shoes are produced … 25 billion! But where do all these shoes go when we have finished with them? Projections show that, with current population trends and without increased intervention, the annual amount of waste disposed to landfills will almost double within 10 years!
As hard as it is for us to believe, a basic necessity like shoes can change the life of someone living in poverty by allowing them to go to school and participate in sport, safeguarding them from injury and infection and giving them the confidence they need to take hold of their future.
So, is that what being a global citizen is all about? …. We can all take an active role in our community and work with others to make our planet a more equal, fair and sustainable place to live.