The Genesis of TABASAMU (Meaning – Smile in Kiswahili) Shoe Campaign (Dabbed the “THE TEN BUCK SHOES”)
The Tabasamu Shoe Campaign and Distribution started in 2003. I had the opportunity to visit a huge center at the heart of Kibera Slums (with a population of about 800,000 to 1,000,000 people living in 4sq miles: Source – UN Habitat) in Nairobi Kenya. The center known as the Blue House, which received it’s name from the color of the blue Tin-Roofed building. The center operated a meals program for children living in the Slums that were starving and had nowhere else to get food. At the time the Blue House was attracting and hosting about 1,000 children all the way from 4 years to 17 years. I became very good friends with the founder, Timothy Mulei and had an opportunity to volunteer and teach about 400 teenagers who flocked the center during meal time.
The month of December was approaching and I asked Mr. Timothy if he had any plans for giving out any presents during the festive season (Christmas), his reply shocked me because I had just come home from the UK where I lived for four years and had experienced the culture of Christmas presents. At the end of our conversation that day, the concept for the Tabasamu was birthed which was later renamed “The Ten Buck Shoes” project by Adriane and Buck Miller. We were excited about the idea but didn’t realize what a challenge it was going to be mainly because the first time we went out to ask for help, we received all types of shoes. We received over-sized shoes, new shoes, old shoes, expensive shoes, cheap shoes and shoes that not even a child in the Slums could accept. The main challenge came on the day of giving out the “presents”. It became impossible to reconcile or explain to one child why they were receiving an old over sized pair while their neighbor was receiving a new expensive shoes that fitted perfectly.
After that horrible experience, we came up with a solution which was to ask all who wanted to be involved to give $10 hence “The Ten Buck Shoes”. We went on to secure a partnership with a local shoe manufacturer by the name Bata and established an account with them which is discounted from 15% to 35% depending on the volume acquired. Since 2003, we have give out 11,749 pairs of brand new shoe to children from Kibera Slums. Why shoes? We give shoes mainly to help protect the feet of the children against the hazardous waste such as open sewers, human waste known as the “flying toilets”, and used needles discarded poorly by drug addicts. The Slums have no proper infrastructure such as roads, piped water, plumbing, or adequate toilets or waste management thus it poses grave danger for a child to walk bare feet hence the need to ensure that every child in the Slum has a pair shoes on their feet. It is estimated that %90 of families that live in Kibera Slums make less than $3 a day thus most families struggle to have a single meal thus a pair of shoes is pipe dream.
The need is huge and the resources are limited therefore we profile the most needy families throughout the year and invite them a few days before Christmas for their Christmas presents. In 2015 we gave out 1310 brand new pairs of shoes from Bata with many of them as their first ever Christmas presents. One parent came to me after distribution in Kibera and said, “Mr. Peter, thank you for making it possible for my daughter to receive her first ever present.” I asked, “How old is your daughter?” She said, “Nine years.” It is extremely rewarding to be able to make such a difference in the lives of children in the Slums and to get such feedback. Our target for 2016 is 1500 pairs of brand new shoes. Funds collected should reach us by the 25th of November to enable us have humble time to order and collect the shoes. Your partnership and help in achieving this goal is highly appreciated.