As our Shoe Giving has grown, so has the opportunity and desire to learn more about the impacts we’re having on those that have received new TOMS through our Giving Partners.
Recently, some members of the Giving Team had the opportunity to visit the Rural Education Action Program (REAP), an evaluation organization at Stanford University that aims to inform education, health and nutrition policy in China. REAP is carrying out a research study in China to learn if TOMS Shoes can be used as an incentive for eye care, more specifically for the treatment of lazy eye.
While the treatment is simple and cheap (children must wear an eye patch over their dominant eye), very few children in rural China seek or receive treatment. Additionally, the treatment is uncomfortable; try walking around with an eye patch using a good eye, let alone wearing one and relying on a poor eye! Through this partnership, we will be able to help provide vision care for rural children in Qin’an County in Gansu Province and learn if our shoes can be used as an incentive for children to follow through with their treatment.
Jamie, a Giving Account Specialist shares her experience visiting REAP:
To get to Qin’an County, where REAP works, I flew into a neighboring province and took a 4-hour train ride and another 1.5-hour taxi ride. From the hotel, it was still another hour and a half drive up through the mountains to the schools. Needless to say, REAP is working in some of the most rural parts of China.
During my stay, I toured the county hospital where children with visual impairment would be diagnosed with lazy eye and treated. They were filled with pictures of children smiling and wearing glasses and new display cases with glasses for children to pick out. I was able to learn how each of the staff went through training specific to eye care and gained a whole new skillset and certification because of this program. The next day was spent visiting schools where they were hosting sight screenings. The children lined up and performed an age appropriate eye exam full of shapes that they had to identify. Once completed, they received a pair of either red or ash Canvas Slip-on Giving Shoes.
As I reflect back on my time with REAP, two things stick out to me. Firstly, how young these children were. Without our partnership with REAP, these children would never receive an eye exam. Second, the number of parents who came to learn about what was going on at their children’s school. They were peeking through the windows to watch the exams and to see their children pick out their new TOMS Shoes. They cared about their children’s health and were unaware of resources to help their children. Parents were all so excited that their children received two gifts that day: the gift of sight and the gift of a new pair of shoes.
My days are spent managing our relationships with our Giving Partners throughout Asia. It means many late-night phone calls and crunching the number weekly to ensure we are fulfilling our One for One® commitment. It was so refreshing to see the difference a single pair of shoes can make when it is part of an amazing program like those with REAP.
Join Jamie and the rest of the TOMS community on One Day Without Shoes and snap a picture of your bare feet for Instagram with the hashtag #withoutshoes. TOMS will give a pair of shoes to help a child in need through programs like REAP’s.
To learn more about One Day Without Shoes, visit www.toms.com/one-day-without-shoes