Hygiene and comfort are insignificant when families are struggling to make both ends meet. The problem doesn’t end there. Going bare feet exposes these people to infections, hookworm, thorn pricks, dangerous objects, long term skin aberrations and heal pain. In fact, more than 1.5 billion people or 24% of the world’s population are infected with soil-transmitted infections that lead to stunted growth, anaemia, chronic fatigue and sometimes even complete loss of limbs. And all this while, more and more shoes are being bought and quickly disposed-off by the affluent.
Being a bunch of ambitious young change makers with the passion to create a better future, the team at Enactus – College of Vocational Studies came up with an idea to create meaningful economic opportunities by simply repurposing worn-out shoes. Project Raah aims at refurbishing discarded footwear with the expertise of road-side ‘Mochi’, to provide a good pair to one and all at an easily affordable price, meanwhile making maximum utilization of the scarce resources and providing more income prospects to the unnoticed shoe-menders.
Their model involves periodically collecting used footwear by conducting donation drives in schools, colleges, corporate houses and residential areas. Footwear are then categorised on the basis of their condition. Then they are distributed amongst our cobblers; who restore and breathe life back into the shoes.
The cobblers themselves sell these shoes in weekly markets and local slums at mere prices of Rs. 80 to 120, allowing them to take control and better their own lives with their hard work. Though the project is still nascent, the 10 cobblers under our umbrella have already sold more than 1200 pairs of shoes in slums of Azadpur, Devli and Khirki and weekly markets like Lajpat Nagar & Sarojini Nagar. Project Raah promises stable additional income for underemployed cobblers, utilization of otherwise discarded footwear, and access to quality affordable footwear for all.
They are putting the dictum ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ to literal application. Having saved more than 2250+ lbs of waste from the landfills, this is just the beginning of a journey to a much brighter and sustainable future. They recently collaborated with a footwear manufacturer in Jalandhar – Just Sports – to attain the material waste & discarded products from production process to take this concept a step further.
They are currently attempting to establish a network of ‘Shoe Donation Banks’ and spreading awareness about donating shoes instead of discarding them. They further envision creating new slippers from the soles of shoes. With more funds, They wish to create a dignified working space for the cobblers called ‘The Shoe Garage’ to ensure safety and uniformity in their operations by providing them the required machinery.
With this endeavour, they hope no one has to travel without shoes in this nation. Raah empowers a community which has been treated with disrespect & disregard since time immemorial with social recognition & better lifestyle.
After all, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a small step!