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Bare Your Soles for Habitat for Humanity

Walking in their ‘shoes’…a mass barefoot walk in affluent Singapore makes a stance that living in poverty is unacceptable

SINGAPORE, 12nd June 2009: Last Saturday, some 800 people took part in the first mass barefoot walk in Singapore. Their aim: to raise awareness of the plight of people living in poverty, who lack access to the basic necessities of life, like shelter, food, clothing and… shoes.

 

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The innovative poverty-awareness projectBare Your Sole Barefoot Walk 2009was organized by Habitat for Humanity Singapore with the support of volunteers from all walks of life.

The patron of HFH Singapore, chairman of Temasek Holdings and former government minister, S. Dhanabalan, flagged off the competitive race and then joined the hundreds of volunteers who walked 5.5 km.,sans shoes, at a park along the eastern coast of Singapore.

“To go without shoes for a short period of time, so that we can be reminded that there are people who are so poor that they cannot afford a decent pair of shoes. We hope that that by this simple act, more people will join us in fighting poverty around the world,” said Dhanabalan.

Walking with them was Eunice Olsen, nominated Member of Parliament and HFH Singapore goodwill ambassador, beautiful finalists from Miss Earth Singapore and a host of local celebrity-actors from current TV dramasRed ThreadandFighting Spiders.

The campaign invited Habitat supporters to “walk in the shoes” of those for whom going barefoot is an accepted way of life. When interviewed by Singapore top English daily, Olsen recalled an encounter in 2006, of seeing children trawling dumps barefooted, which led to sores and bruises on their feet. Going with footwear exposes a child to the dangers of being cut by glass or infected with diseases when pricked by used injection syringes.

Millions of people in developing countries live in poverty, lacking adequate shelter, and millions of these people are children who do not even have shoes to wear. Going barefoot, these children lack protection. Going without shelter, these children lack protection; they are exposed to the perils of bad weather, poor health, unclean and unsafe surroundings.

The Bare Your Soleadvocacy campaign also invited volunteers to “go the extra distance” by contributing to HFH Singapore’s strategic long-term housing projects in the Asia-Pacific region.

A huge 2.5-metre wall comprising pictures of 400 barefoot children was erected in the park and the public was invited to purchase “shoe” stickers to paste on the mural. More than SG$8,000 (US$ 5,500) was raised on the day of the mass barefoot walk. Furthermore, for every sticker on the wall, footwear maker Crocs pledges to donate a new pair of shoes.

The post-walk carnival included a magic show, live performances from a local band and a singing duo, a sketch artist and free treats like foot massage, candy floss and energy drinks.

TheBare Your Sole Barefoot Walk 2009was organized by Habitat for Humanity, Singapore Management University and Victoria Junior College.

In the past two months leading up to the mass barefoot walk, Crocs conducted an in-store donation cum collection drive in support of HFH Singapore. For every S$10 (US$7) donated or a pair of old shoes brought to the Crocs store by people in Singapore, Crocs will give a pair of shoes to children without shoes in developing countries such as Sri Lanka.

By giving up shoes, by giving funds, time and talent to contribute to the building of homes for those in need, it is a powerful gesture of giving hope, self-respect and change, and breaking the cycling of poverty.

Hilda Natasha Chung posted on the wall of the Bare Your Sole 2009’s Facebook page: First time running barefooted n realized how it feel to be not wearing any footwear at all. Must be tough on those poor kids. A gallery of Bare Your Sole 2009 event photos can be viewed here.