There is nothing more important than helping your fellow man. This is a core principle for both us as a company and the charity we work closely with, Soles4Souls. We were able to sit down with Buddy Teaster, the CEO of Soles4Souls and ask him a few questions:
For people who aren’t familiar with the organization, what does Soles4Souls do?
By collecting shoes and clothes from individuals, faith based groups, schools, civic organizations, manufacturers and retailers, we have assets that we think about putting to work in four ways:
- Job creation through micro enterprise: essentially helping create entrepreneurs and jobs by giving people a chance to earn an income by selling shoes and clothes in the developing world
- Serving those in need: whether it’s after a natural disaster or another immediate need, we would be providing shoes and clothing to those who are suffering from hardships.
- Environmentally sustainable: every year we help keep millions of pounds of shoes/clothing out of landfills and give those things an extended life. That’s positive and rewarding for the people we serve and our environment.
- Public health: shoes especially, play an important role in preventing a number of soil borne diseases and parasites while reducing injuries that can lead from the merely painful to the fatal
What countries do you work with:
Since soles4souls started in 2006, we’ve distributed more than 22 million pairs of shoes in 127 countries. We have a real focus right now on our micro enterprise program in four countries: Haiti, Honduras, Moldova and Philippines
How does someone get involved?
We have three ways for anyone to be a part of the mission to “wear out poverty”
- Donate shoes or clothing
- Donate money
- Travel with us
One of the things I love best about s4s is that we have people ranging in ages from 7 to more than 70 years old, who do all three! It’s easy to get started and every pair of shoes and piece of clothing makes a difference!
What are the future goals for Soles4Souls?
Our plan is to double our impact in the next three years. That means collecting 11mm pounds of shoes and clothing for free distribution, as well as our micro enterprise program. We also want to double the number of entrepreneurs and jobs we help create. We’re currently doing an impact study of exactly those two things in Haiti, which should provide us with a good model to understand our total impact.
Give us an interesting story that has occurred on a trip.
I have traveled twice to Haiti with my wife and two daughters. The first time was when they were 10 and 15. I wrote about my takeaways from the second trip in this blog post from Jan 2014. If anything, my additional trips have reinforced the idea that while I go thinking I might change or help people “there” the biggest change is to me. Whether that’s putting shoes, for the first time ever, on a 40 year old man or holding a 7 yr old orphan who hasn’t spoke in years, I come away profoundly different. I love Mark Twain’s quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Do you personally go on all of the trips?
Because we travel to Costa Rica, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica and Tanzania (with India and Bolivia added later in 2015), I could be gone all the time! However, I have only been to Haiti four times so far, because of our micro enterprise partnership there. I really want to get to Honduras next. And India, is one of my favorite places in the world! The good news is that we have a fantastic and accomplished travel team that puts together more than 20 trips a year so no matter who leads the trip, you’re in great hands!
You can find more information about Soles4Souls at: