Q&A with Jeremy from Soles4Souls
After seeing their drop boxes all around the Twin Cities, we recently connected with Soles4Souls via Twitter. The more we learned about their organization, the more we liked them! We got in touch with Jeremy, the social media manager, and he graciously agreed to do a Q&A for our blog. This was a learning experience for us, and we hope it will be a learning experience for you as well! Read on to find out about this fantastic organization and how they are recycling shoes for people in need all around the world.
IVC: How long have you worked for Soles4Souls?
Jeremy: I started working at Soles4Souls in July of 2010. Currently, I manage all of the social media outlets.
IVC: Describe your experience.
Jeremy: Working for Soles4Souls has been a great experience. It’s definitely an honor to be a part of a team that works hard to impact lives around the world. Being that I work in social media, it’s been a cool experience to connect with people via Twitter or Facebook, tell them about Soles4Souls & how they can get involved, and watch how online relationships can lead to real world impact.
IVC: Tell us about the mission of Soles4Souls.
Jeremy: There are an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world who don’t have adequate footwear, 300 million of which are children. Our mission is to change that, one pair at a time. By using excess shoes that are given by donors ranging from million dollar footwear companies to the closets of individuals across the country, we’ve been able to provide a pair of shoes for almost 13 million people around the world. It’s pretty simple. We give people the opportunity to change lives with the excess shoes they don’t use.
IVC: Why shoes?
Jeremy: Shoes are definitely something that we as Americans take for granted a lot of times, so the detriment of not having adequate footwear goes unnoticed by most people. For people in Haiti, shoes mean that they don’t have to worry about stepping on any sharp debris as they try to rebuild their lives. For men in Peru, shoes mean the opportunity to find employment because they finally have something to help them gain traction as they make their walk up slick mountainsides for work every day. For girls in India, shoes mean the opportunity to go to school, where shoes are required for enrollment. For orphans in Togo, shoes mean that they won’t lose their lives to hookworm diseases, which are contracted through parasites that enter the body through bare feet, like their parents did.
IVC: What are the distribution trips like?
Jeremy: A typical distribution lasts 4-7 days including travel. During our time in the country, we set up several distributions throughout the city, visit and play with orphans, and take a day to experience the culture of the country we visit.
As far as the actual distribution goes, we have a very efficient system that allows for us to provide each person with an unforgettable experience of receiving a pair of shoes. We wash every person’s feet, fit them for the correct size, and help them tie their shoes for the first time. This experience not only leaves a lasting impression on the people receiving the shoes, but also the people who join us on the trips.
IVC: Have you ever been on a distribution trip?
Jeremy: I haven’t been on an international distribution yet, but I’ve worked several distributions including Nashville Flood victims last May. My goal is to travel on an international distribution sometime in 2011.
IVC: How can people get involved?
Jeremy: There are numerous ways for people to join Soles4Souls in changing the world one pair at a time. Our Travel with Us program is definitely the most hands-on way for people to partner with us. However, people can join us by finding a drop box location near them and donating the shoes taking up space in their closet, hosting a shoe drive, or donating $1 which provides 1 pair of shoes.
IVC: Tell us about your 2011 campaign.
Jeremy: In our five years as a charity, we’ve distributed close to 13 million pairs of shoes worldwide. Our goal for 2011 is to collect and distribute 11 million pairs in one year. Everything that we do is being tied back to our 11 in 11 campaign. We’ve got several new initiatives for the campaign we’re really excited about including our ONE WALK 2011, Travel4Soles Challenge, and retail partnerships.
IVC: Any heartwarming, crazy or funny story we should know about?
Jeremy: There have been several stories that I’ve heard from our trips. The one that stands out in my mind is of two boys who showed up to one of our distributions in Haiti. After talking with them for a while, we realized that they had borrowed their mother’s shoes to walk to the distribution. That day, they were able to leave with a pair of their own, without having to fear stepping on sharp metal or embarrassment of wearing their mom’s shoes.
Thanks so much to Jeremy for sharing with us! Please visit the soles4souls.org to find out more and become a part of the 11 in 11 campaign.