TOMS Shoes for Gaza: More Than Just a Pair of Shoes
With new TOMS shoes, Layan can walk to school comfortably and focus on her dreams, like being a teacher.
Five-year old Layan walks through and plays in the rubble-strewn streets of Beit Hanoun every day. Her shoes take a beating every time she goes out. Last year she got her first pairs of TOMS Shoes and Boots and she wore them until they didn’t fit anymore. Like many children in her village, she doesn’t have access to basic necessities like food and outerwear. That’s why she is so happy to be getting another pair of TOMS now.
Beit Hanoun is one of Gaza’s poorest and most war-ravaged towns. It lies along Gaza’s northern buffer zone, near Israel, and suffered large-scale destruction in the last three wars. Unemployment is the highest in Gaza, which itself has the highest rate in the world, at 40 percent.
When Layan’s father Mohammad needed cash to support his family, he knocked on all the doors of Beit Hanoun looking for any odd job. After finally getting a construction job in Khan Younis, he was tragically killed when a building collapsed. Mohammad was only 32 years old and was expecting a son. His widow named the son Mohammad when he was born months later.
Some of the financial stress on Layan’s family was relieved recently when shoe manufacturer TOMS gave two pairs of shoes to the little girl. The gift was among 50,100 other pairs of shoes distributed throughout Gaza by ANERA. New shoes protect children’s feet from being injured and from infections caused by trash and sewage.
“Right after we got the new shoes, my classmates and I went out to play,” said Layan. “We jumped so high!”
Now Layan can run around with her friends and go to school safely. “The streets are full of dirt. I’m so I happy to have these,” she said. After breaking in her shoes on the playground, she ran to a kiosk down the road to buy candies for her friends.
“She is the loveliest person on earth,” beams her kindergarten teacher, Hala Hellis. “She is smart, active and she adorably gives her baby brother a kiss when she returns home from school each day.”
Layan wants to be a schoolteacher like Hala one day. “I think she can make this happen,” said Hala. “Education will lead to a better future for Layan.”
“The new shoes allow Layan to attend school regularly and feel more confident among other kids,” said Rania Elhelo, communications specialist at ANERA’s Gaza office. “The shoes’ distribution will supportANERA’s early childhood programs’ holistic approach, encompassing cognitive, social, emotional and physical development and protection.” Rania noted that giving Gaza TOMS shoes comes with multiple benefits to children. It lessens the financial burden on families, enhances children’s self-esteem and restores a sense of stability for children who have lost belongings in wars.
Now that Layan has brand new shoes, she can walk to school, play with her friends and buy treats to celebrate. “When Layan and her friends gathered to play in their new shoes, they were singing, jumping and running in circles,” said Rania. “It was nice seeing the unity among all the kids, dressed in their school uniforms and wearing brand new TOMS.”