If the shoe fits: Dapp delivers to children in need

Junior Alex Dapp experienced the trip of a lifetime this September when she traveled to Peru with Toms Shoes. Toms is a for-profit company that promises to give a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold.

Five months ago, Dapp entered an international contest in which she created an entry on the Toms website.

            “In a hundred words or less, I had to say why I should be one of the chosen ones to travel with the company and deliver shoes,” Dapp said. “After I created the entry, I had a month to collect as many votes as possible. It was actually the hardest work I think I’ve ever done.”

Dapp said she lost many social media follows throughout her campaign because of her persistence in using the internet to collect votes.

            “It was all worth it because I ended up getting over 1,700 votes, and out of 10,000 entries I was one of the 50 who was chosen to go on the trip with Toms,” Dapp said.

Before her trip, Toms flew Dapp and the other 49 winners to its headquarters in Los Angeles for one weekend in June. The winners went on a tour of the facility and had a happy hour with Toms employees where everyone introduced themselves and networked with the employees.

            “We even had a sit-down with the owner of Toms, and that was probably one of the most thrilling moments of my life,” Dapp said.

Dapp described the group of winners as “eclectic,” with ages ranging from 16 to 48.

“It was awesome because I got to spend three days surrounded by like-minded individuals talking about how this contest is the trip of a lifetime,” Dapp said.

Dapp went to Peru with 12 other winners, traveling to public schools to fit children for their new pairs of Toms.

“It was easily the most amazing week of my life, but it was also the most physically demanding week,” Dapp said. “We woke up at 6 a.m. each morning and we spent the majority of our days traveling and delivering shoes.”

Dapp and her group brought in boxes of Toms to size each child for his or her new pair. They served between 200 and 800 children each day at public schools, depending on the day, she said.

“Often times, this was a child’s first brand-new pair of shoes ever, so they would take them off their feet and wrap them up to save them for a special occasion,” Dapp said. “They knew they wouldn’t get another new pair until Toms comes back in six months to give them another pair.”

Shoes are a required part of the children’s uniform, so shoes are a crucial basic for Peruvians in order to receive an education, Dapp said.

She said she enjoyed playing and interacting with the children, partaking in soccer games and face painting.

“We got to actually connect with the kids instead of just coming in, dropping off the shoes and leaving,” Dapp said.

Dapp said the language barrier did not interfere with her understanding of the children’s hopes and dreams.

“As long as you smile, that’s really the only language that you need to speak,” Dapp said. Dapp has been a believer in the mission of Toms shoes since she bought her first pair in 2007. Now she owns 10 pairs and is still a strong supporter.

“I’ve believed in Tom’s ever since I heard of them almost five years ago now,” Dapp said. “They are a company that stands behind what they believe in. They are a for-profit company that is still making a difference in the world.”

Toms is able to donate shoes in more than 60 countries with the help of giving partners, local organizations that research the levels of poverty in each area and assess which locations are most in need of shoes.

“It’s amazing to see the major shift in the poverty level even just 30 minutes outside of Lima,” Dapp said. “Their daily wage is about 3 Nuevo Sol, which is about $1.20. That’s a drink for me at the gas station, but that’s a whole day’s worth of pay for them.”

In her entry of 100 words or less, Dapp explained how she had been called to give back, and the opportunity to travel with Toms fulfilled her desire to help.

“I feel like I have wanderlust — I’m never content with just staying in one place,” Dapp said.

Kate Baxendale is managing editor at University News. She is also an intern at KCUR-FM. Kate will graduate with a B.A. in Communication Studies - Journalism and Mass Communications and a B.A. in Spanish in May 2014.

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