Witsies braved stale urine, glass and camel droppings on April 16 when they came to campus barefoot in support of the One Day Without Shoes initiative.
The Wits Volunteer Programme (WVP) hosted an event to raise awareness for the drive, which aims to collect shoes for underprivileged children. Witsies attended the event barefoot to show their support and donated shoes.
A “path without shoes” was created on library lawns, from sand, dried grass, rocks and bits of Lego. The barefoot students were encouraged to walk across it to make them aware of how tough it could be to walk across these kinds of surfaces.
But perhaps a normal walk across campus provided the greatest challenge. Besides camels offering rides, and depositing droppings, on Library Lawns, Wits Vuvuzela caught the scent of urine in corners and saw broken glass on pathways.
“We take shoes for granted…in some developing countries some kids are not allowed to go to school if they don’t have shoes,” said Joanne Tomlinson, 2nd year BA and co-founder of the initiative at Wits.
Some kids were denied the opportunity to get an education, simply because they did not have shoes.Children also get cuts on their feet, which turn septic over time, she said. They caught diseases which were completely preventable.
One Day Without Shoes is an initiative that was originally started by the American shoe company TOMS. “For every pair of shoes they [TOMS] sell they give one away… They have actually handed out some in Diepsloot. They take each individual pair and fit it onto a kid’s feet. They don’t just drop the shoes off,” said Tomlinson.
Asked by Wits Vuvuzela how she had survived her day without shoes, Vivien Teijlingem, 1st year Fine Arts, said: “It’s nice for us to get to experience how tough it is walking without shoes, so we can care and understand what people go through.”
BSC student Khosa Solly,added: “We can feel the pain that they [children who go to school without shoes] feel today, which will raise awareness.”
Tomlinson said she was grateful for the support the initiative had received from the WVP. Karuna Singh of the WVP attended the event barefoot.
Those who missed out on Tuesday can still donate shoes at the WVP offices in Senate House, Tomlinson said the shoes collected on campus would be given to the Bryanston Bible Church, who run a number of community outreach initiatives.