The kindergarten inside the Za’atari camp in Jordan is a little island of happiness inside a place that is full of tragedy. Here, 3-5 year-old Syrian children living in the huge camp are able to come three times per week in the morning or afternoon to have fun, build social skills and start learning. The brightly colored space, the simple toys, the dedicated young teachers all serve as a respite from the tough, grinding life these children have been living for months or even years in the camp. On my recent visit to Za’atari, the kids got something else too. New winter boots, specially made and provided to Save the Children by TOMS Shoes, were distributed to 9,000 children. As you can see from this video, the reactions were truly wonderful to see.
TOMS is pretty unique among our partners. Many have not supported our efforts for Syria due to fears of political issues within the conflict or lack of focus on the Middle East. But TOMS entire business model is built on the idea that for each pair of shoes purchased, a pair of appropriate shoes will be given to someone who needs them—the company has now given away more than 10 million pairs of shoes worldwide. You won’t find the rubber boots we gave out in Za’atari camp at any shoe store in the U.S. or Europe or anywhere else you find TOMS for sale. These boots were made for this specific purpose as part of TOMS “Giving Pair” effort when we pointed out the need for warm boots in the harsh and cold desert area where the camp is located. We’ll be distributing the boots in China and Tajikistan as well to help keep kids warm from the winter chill.
Giving kids a new pair of boots in the middle of chaotic and complex Za’atari may seem like a small thing—and of course we are doing a lot more for children and families in the camp, from providing bread to all 85,000 residents every day to running 39 child friendly spaces and full service kindergartens, and more. But when I slipped a new pair of boots on a little boy’s feet and saw the proud look on his face as he stared at shoes made and delivered just for him, I was reminded that sometimes the small things are the most important.