Sunday, 22 April 2012

I Have Shoes

Kigali is a huge city, but at the same time it feels rural. On our journey to the center in the morning, Dorota and I get off our bus on the main road next to the airport. A few steps later we find ourselves surrounded by lush green foliage. Children run out from small huts to greet us, and crops grow in every available square foot of space.

One morning, we found the boys digging a ditch to a new fresh water pipe to the center. Manual labor of this kind seems to call for shoes off, which I find dangerous due to the occasional bits of broken glass, nails, etc. The boys just laughed this off of course, because nothing seems to phase them. They dug in short shifts to keep the work flowing, and at the end of my shift my hands were blistered and bleeding. Meanwhile, the boys continued to sing, dig and dig some more. As a result, I had to bandage my fingers for the next few days. Luckily for me, this also meant that Dorota had to do all the clothes washing (with the standard hands-and-a-bucket method).

Shoes have been a huge issue at the center. The boys need them badly, people outside Rwanda want to donate them but shipping them into the country comes with a huge tax and shipping cost. Thanks to a slow trickle that have been smuggled in via volunteers' suitcases, there were many a shoe in the store room, but not enough for each boy to get their own pair. This meant they were just sitting in there taunting the boys.

Ourselves and the other volunteers (Elena, Ally, Elizabeth, Ian and Emily) decided to work together with the staff (Agnes, Josianne and Charles) to measure all of the boys' feet, do an inventory of the shoes we had and then take a few boys to the market along with a stack of cash donated from many different sources (a special thank you to our own friends and family for contributing to this). The boys turned out to be incredibly patient and skilled shoppers. They wouldn't settle for anything less than cool when it came to their sneakers, and they stood firm on their price of 5000 Rwandan Francs per pair (about £5 or $8). After an entire day of wheelin' an dealin' at the market we had all the shoes we needed.

Here is a short video to show the action:


  1. Bret, this is awesome. I'm so happy everything worked out with the shoes! What a great clip at the end. We have to do our share and pass out the TOMS we sold.

    P.S. Sorry about your hands!

  2. That's one hell of a foundation, B & D - nice work :)