Shoe drives fail to address poverty in Third World countries

While well-intentioned, shoe drives like the one at BSM don't actually help people in third-world countries.

Olivia Rossman, Staff Writer

Over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. Naturally, given that BSM caters to the upper class in a first-world country, it’s only logical that the BSM community would try to give back to the impoverished. Which is why, from September 23 to October 14, BSM collected shoes to donate to those in third-world countries. While the intentions may have been pure, as a community, the BSM Parent Association should reconsider the use of shoe drives for future charitable endeavours.

Generally, when the idea of poverty in Africa is brought up, most people tend to envision the same thing: naked, malnourished children laying in the dirt begging for water. This is an inaccurate representation of what’s actually happening over in Africa. The images that people use in association with poverty don’t aim to tell the truth; their main goal is to get donations. While Third World countries do have extreme cases of poverty (just like the US), they also have shopping malls, airports, grocery stores, and most other things we have in the US.

It’s the classic case of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him how to catch fish.”

— Olivia Rossman

The reality is that most people in third-world countries don’t need shoes. They need steady medical care, disability aid, and volunteers to help stimulate their economy, so they don’t have to rely on foreign aid.  

The way Funds2Org—the charity that the BSM Parent Association has partnered with for this drive—works is that they collect shoes, and sell them at a markup to the charity-sponsored ‘hub’ in the country they want to help. The ‘hub’ then distributes the shoes at a markup to local shoe sellers, who then sell the shoes to the people in their town. This means that the people in developing countries aren’t producing their own items, instead, they are reliant on the ‘hubs’ to provide them with with merchandise to fill their shops.

If Funds2Org were to shut down its operations in a country, it is likely that the clothing economy would collapse after receiving that kind of aid for so long. Developing countries have fragile markets, and to take out a charity that spoon-feeds aid would ruin any economic progress the country had made. It’s the classic case of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him how to catch fish.

My proposal to fix this problem is simple: instead of giving shoes, BSM should fund education programs in third-world countries so that the next generation of impoverished youths have a chance to get a basic education. There are 70 million children across the world who can’t get an education, but if BSM bands together and decides to fund a charity like the Campaign for Education, a long-lasting impact will be made and the global economy will see a workforce full of contributing adults who don’t need to rely on foreign aid to keep a sustainable society.