It seems counterintuitive that giving shoes to those in need does more harm to then good. As unlikely as that seems, that is what is happening in Ethiopia.
In 2006, the company Tom’s started as a buy-one-give-one charitable shoe company. The point of the company is that for every pair of canvas sneakers, wedges, and now sunglasses, a pair of shoes will go to an underprivileged child along with funding for relief efforts. The idea of the company is outstanding, but in actuality, it isn’t helping as many people as predicted. The supposed Ethiopian beneficiaries dispute the company’s claim that providing shoes eliminates a barrier to education since students cannot enter school without shoes. Instead of providing shoes to children barred from school for lack of shoes, the company distributes shoes in classrooms to students who already have them. The point of the charity is to provide shoes to children that do not already have them.
Another issue is that the Tom’s rarely provide work for the local shoe industry in Ethiopia. In a country with little work and failing industries, the locals need job opportunities rather than handouts. The hope was that if shoes were becoming available, jobs would also become available for local workers, but only the opposite has happened. Buy-one-give-one companies are competing with local businesses, not improving or helping them, which is counterproductive.