Toni Sorenson once said: “walking a mile in someone else’s shoes isn’t as much about the walk or the shoes; it’s to be able to think what they think, feel what they feel, and understand why they are who and where they are. Every step is about empathy.”

Most of us give little or no thought to our shoes when we put them on every morning. We know they are there and, take them for granted. We may even have several pairs of shoes for different occasions.

School shoes are worn every day for at least 12 years of the average life. Polished and shining, these are the final piece of a school uniform, adding dignity and pride. For many children, however, a decent pair of leather school shoes is difficult to afford.

This, then, made a hot, sunny morning at RA Padayachee Primary School in Shakashead deeply meaningful. In one of their biggest donations, made possible by Genius Shoes, 800 pairs of genuine leather school shoes were handed to overjoyed learners.

The initiative was the brainchild of Tony Dearling after a discussion with a longtime friend Mr. Eugasen Reddy, a director at Genius Shoes. Eugasen knew that Terry Dearling was involved with Partners for Possibility and that Simbithi was already involved with RA Padayachee through their Community Social Investment programme. This offered a great collaborative partnership.      

Eugasen visited RAP on behalf of Genius School Shoes to personally hand over the shoes. He was joined by PfP North Coast Learning Process Facilitator Terry Dearling and her husband, Tony Dearling, both Simbithi residents. General Manager Malcolm Samuel and former HOA Director Dudley Wang rounded out the delegation.

Principal, Aleen Maharaj was overwhelmed, and children sang and danced their thanks to Mr. Reddy. “Every time we have a visit from Terry and Simbithi, they bring us joy. You are all angels. I have been at this school for many years and it’s the first time every single learner is being given a precious gift,” she said. “Our community has every problem you might think of but Simbithi, as our neighbours, keeps showing us the true spirit of ubuntu.”

Terry expressed her happiness at returning to the school and echoed Mrs. Maharaj’s sentiments. “We are only separated by a highway, but we know you have it tougher on this side. I would like to thank Eugasen for his kindness, in allowing every child an opportunity to be equal and walk with dignity.”

Longtime friend and business associate of Eugasen’s, Tony Dearling introduced him as he preferred: “a shoemaker from Chatsworth”. “Eugasen and I go back twenty years. He is a such a humble man and a fine friend. We are honoured you chose our community. Thank you.”

Mr. Samuel, who has been involved with the school for more than five years, announced that Simbithi would be partnering with the school to provide each learner a pair of socks to go with their new school shoes. “Our board felt we could not give you shoes without socks, so we are proud to continue the good work started by Genius School Shoes and strengthen our partnership with RAP. My thanks to Genius School Shoes for allowing Simbithi to be part of this magnificent day and, learners, I hope each of you will continue to do us proud.”