HEART & SOLE
When I first saw this photograph on Facebook I realised its significance instantly. It was posted by a member of staff from FARA Romania, who I met in 2013 while visiting FARA’s programmes in Suceava. I have met that boy, known of his need for new shoes and seen with my own eyes his joy at receiving them. Well, it wasn’t exactly him, as the boy in the picture is called Hans Werfel, age 6 of Vienna, Austria whose delight was captured by the American Red Cross on the 1st of December 1952.
The boy I am thinking of comes from one of the five villages FARA supports as part of the rural development programme in the very poor north east of Romania. The Charity provides daily hot meals, made and produced at FARA’s organic farm to 300 children in five schools ensuring they do not go hungry and have a good reason to stay to finish their homework. I had just helped serve up lunch at a school and we were due to head off in to visit a remote village where FARA had been working with another charity to help fix up the homes of some of the kids that were in a dire state. Before we left a boy approached the staff member and whispered something in her ear - he was soon followed by a number of other children, who crowded around as she opened the boot of her car. Amongst the bottles of cooking oil, UHT milk and sacks of rice was a cardboard box of shoes. She quickly sized up his feet rummaged around and offered him some shoes. Indeed he was grateful but when he saw some football boots his eyes lit up (they were too big but it didn't matter.)
I will never forget the trip to the village. Mud and more mud. Little ones running around with nappies swinging low. No shoes. No roof on a half built room. A mother with five children in a tiny space - a fly lazily bothered her baby snoozing…. Nothing aspirational, no sense of hope - nothing but improvised filth and more mud. I was just astounded at the levels of poverty. A new pair of shoes was they very least of what was required but it was a start. FARA has been working to improve the lives of families and particularly the kids of these villages for ten years. FARA's 2015 Appeal is helping a village much like the one I visited. The choice of image for the campaign was no coincidence.
It is so easy to forget what a luxury a pair of shoes that fits is. It is only one of many choices we make in a day, can I run for be bus in these, do they make me look good, do they rub and simply which ones shall I wear. So next time you make this decision think about the good a pair of shoes can do. Like these YSL platform gladiators worn once and donated to FARA on sale at Retromania for £175. Nothing practical about this footwear but its resale has great value and kudos for FARA. To the other extreme to these two sacks of hardly used football boots donated by students from Thomas’s School in Battersea where FARA took part in a Make A Difference Day. A pair of shoes can do a lot of good whether raising funds or given as a needed or prized item. And, as we all know, Cinderella is proof that one pair of shoes can change your life!
“Let your dreams outgrow the shoes of your expectations.” Says the Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro