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Toby Tanser: Education and Shoe4Africa

By Corina Pinto

Jun 25, 2013 11:21:00 AM

In this week’s Run for Another blog, we showcase an awesome organization working in East Africa called Shoe4Africa.

Shoe4Africa works to promote AIDS awareness, educational programs, peace initiatives, health matters and women’s empowerment and it all started with a pair of shoes. Shoe4Africa has built various schools and is currently working on constructing the first public teaching children’s hospital in East Africa. Below founder Toby Tanser answers four questions about Shoe4Africa and its impact. 

1. What is Shoe4Africa? 

Toby: S4A is a volunteer project driven hobby of mine that I started back in 1995 basically by giving away a pair of running shoes.  Everything starts with something small.  Case in point Pepsi started with one bottle of fizzy water!  The name comes from a personal story that happened five years later, at the millennium but the concept is a step forward in life for where the projects are. 

2. Why is running an important sport to promote, and how can it help communities that image002participate? 

Toby: I don't see myself as promoting running, more presenting opportunity.  Running for me has had a wonderful impact on my life, and I would like to see everyone, anywhere, have the same opportunities that I had.  As the old saying goes, 'talent is universal, opportunity is not'. 

3. Have you seen a successful impact?

Toby: In the last two years there are now four great shoe4africa schools in Kenya. I was in Kenya last week giving out NOOKS to kids who have never owned a single book in their life; now they own 900-titles!  To answer your question - Yes, I think every project worker who comes from the West to the third world sees successful impact; that is a great component about helping 'hands ons'. 

4. Do you have any specific stories you would like to share that exemplify your work? 

Toby: I direct people who are interested in Shoe4Africa to visit the website and click on the Our History link.  The work is so varied and the stories so many that it changes every day for me.  But days like a grandma hoisting a pair of used running shoes up in the air as if she had won the lottery stick in my mind.  Especially when a young grand daughter watches and then starts running herself and a year later makes Kenya's national running team... Or a boy I give a pencil to, so he can attend school, who then goes and saws it in three pieces to help two equally needed friends.  It is often when we see reflections in our own life, missed opportunities, or wasted ones, that we feel most moved (I believe) doing work over in Africa. 

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Topics: running, africa, shoes, education, peace, health, volunteer, AIDS awareness, women empowerment, school


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