Got (extra) shoes? Most people in Swaziland don’t – and desperately need them

By Karen McColl

Although it’s not unusual for people travelling in poverty stricken countries to be affected by what they see, it is less common for people to take action in order to help improve the lives of others.

Krista Carnegie and her family are trying to do just that through Shoes for Swaziland, an initiative that will send footwear to this small, impoverished African country.

She is asking Revelstokians to dig in their closets and pull out any shoes that might not mean much to you, but could mean a lot for someone in Swaziland.

“Children cannot go to school without proper footwear,” Carnegie explains.

The shoe drive idea came from Carnegie’s twelve year old son, Raine, who also organized a Halloween drive to collect items for the Revelstoke food bank. He is part of Free the Children, an organization that empowers children to help children.

Although Carnegie has not been to Swaziland, recent family trips to Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, have been, at times, “heart-shattering,” for the whole family. She hopes her family of four will make it to Swaziland this coming winter.

“I want to teach my children how being born here is such a privilege,” says Carnegie.

Carnegie will be accepting shoes from 9 am to 1pm this Saturday May 8 alongside the Fair Trade Day festivities taking place on Mackenzie Avenue downtown. She will be set up between First and Second Streets.

Carnegies is accepting any gently used shoes “in decent condition.”

“Anything from flip flops, pull-on’s, Crocs, winter boots, gum boots; they have mountains there too,” Carnegie explains.

“Everyone has a few pairs of crocs in their basement; I know they do,” she said, referring to the popular clog-like rubber shoes.

While admitting that her aspirations are high, Carnegie is hoping to gather 1,000 pairs of shoes in Revelstoke.

“It’s a pretty hefty goal,” she says, but so far, so good. While the downtown consignment store RePsyched is accepting shoes on her behalf, Carnegie also has a growing pile at her house.

“My house smells right now. It smells like shoes,” she says with a laugh.

The shoes will be delivered to Jackie and Ray Brosseuk, local founders of Partners for Others, a non-profit organization that sends shipping containers full of much needed items to various countries in need.

Swaziland is a small, mountainous country land-locked between South Africa and Mozambique. The bad news is that it has the highest per capita HIV prevalence in the world and that over half the population survives on less than US $1.25 per day. The good news is that sometime in the fall of 2010 a shipping container full of shoes and other useful goods will be distributed to those in need.

Yes, you can make a difference.

For more information about Shoes for Swaziland, please contact Krista Carnegie at 250-837-8569.