Be A Sole Provider & #REUSEMYSHOES
By Vanessa Papas: Recently the launch of a very worthy initiative, #REUSEMYSHOES, spearheaded by Capetonian runner Mandy Meyer, who teamed up with NGO On Your Feet. She hopes to get as many budding runners from disadvantaged communities kitted with well-worn but still wearable running shoes to people in need. Mandy started the campaign to help other people and watch them grow after realising that her old shoes could mean the start of something great for someone else.
Mandy hasn’t always been a budding athlete. In fact, just last year January she was, what you’d term, a ‘typical couch potato’. She weighed 105kg, smoked 30 cigarettes a day, spent her weekends in pubs, wore a size 42 jeans and had a heart rate of about 100 bpm. When her self-esteem took a dip she realised she needed to get her life on track and started walking to the shop and back (2km) instead of driving. She stopped drinking, cut out all junk and processed food and started going to gym three times a week. She trusted the process and remained patient. She would wake up every morning at 04:30 so that she could go train. Today Mandy weighs 70 kg, doesn’t smoke or spend weekends in the pub, wears a size 34 jeans and has a resting heart rate of a about 50 bpm. Running, she says, dramatically changed her life. Her journey inspired her to ‘pay it forward’ and get as many kids, teenagers and adults as active as possible so they can improve their lives by providing them with the basic gear needed.
“Some people run for their partners, some people run so that they can tell every single person they meet about it, others run for fun and giggles, some come from a running family, others run just to run, while some are out there running barefoot and not telling anyone about it. Many people don’t have shoes to run in, simply because they cannot afford them. That’s where my #REUSEMYSHOES concept came from,” says Mandy. “As runners, we go through a fair amount of running shoes but many of us rarely enjoy parting ways with them. The old shoes, like an old ex, hardly ever get used again and are only spoken about when asked.”
Mandy has teamed up with On My Feet SA – a non-profit organisation in Cape Town that uses running to help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness by inspiring self-worth, a sense of purpose, and paving pathways to self sufficiency.
The NGO states: “Homelessness is not a life choice, it’s a circumstance that so many people in South Africa find themselves in. It can happen quickly, easily, and tragically (the average South African is only six weeks away from homelessness).
“On My Feet offers a two-step programme for those who join them. Foot Step 1 (Self Worth Plan) sees community members provided with running gear (t-shirt, shorts, socks, shoes). In return, they are asked to run with the community on certain days of the week. Through the programme members will redefine how they see themselves and will emerge with greater confidence, self-esteem and a positive outlook on life. All of us, regardless of gender, race, age or social background have a desire to feel important. That feeling of importance is severely damaged when faced with discrimination, long term unemployment, and homelessness which, in turn, makes a meaningful change incredibly challenging. This impacts the individual, their immediate and extended family, and the community within which they live. On My Feet aims to create a running community that sets goals which overcome challenges individually and collectively through dedication, commitment, friendship, and team work and, in the process, develops self-worth for members through a Self-Worth Plan. In addition to signing a Commitment Contract and a Personal Goals Statement, all community members have a target event (from 5km up to full marathon) that they need to work towards with entry funded by the programme or through partnerships with a running events. Attendance, distance, and attitude is monitored on every run. One month and 90% attendance is required to successfully complete Foot Step 1.
“Foot Step 2 (Independence Plan) sees members who have successfully taken Foot Step 1, build an independence plan for themselves that will involve developing skills, through training and education, which will enable them to go for interviews and seek employment opportunities with selected On My Feet partners. Limited financial assistance is provided to selected members to help them overcome barriers to independence – for example transport, education, tools for a job, rental bonds. Participants are awarded a new t- shirt with an On My Feet shoe colour representative of their cumulative running success. They are also encouraged to set goals to participate in local running club events.
“‘Why running’, you may ask. Because running has the power to change everything. Running has the power to create self worth through positive reinforcement and being part of a community; to create a sense of purpose through goal races and the prospect of education and employment; to create self sufficiency as we introduce our participants to potential employers and education programs when they achieve 90 percent attendance. Why 90 percent? 90 Percent requires determination, discipline, perseverance, commitment and a positive attitude. These are the ingredients for success. Running is a great metaphor for life – you get out of it what you put in. The participants at On My Feet SA have put in a lot and are now leaders within their community. They are shining examples of what is possible. TheNGO is not looking to create champion runners but to create independence, self worth, and a positive contribution to our communities.”
On November 4, Mandy launched the #REUSEMYSHOES campaign at the popular Lions Head hiking trail in Signal Hill. Runners were asked to collect their old shoes and donate them at the start of the hike. Funding is still needed for the shoe drop off boxes, branding for the boxes, and mainly for the purchasing of new running tops/socks/shorts to go with the shoes. While the hike was the first fund-raising event, it’s hoped the campaign will be around for the long run, with the ultimate goal of helping as many people as possible!
Pay It Forward
How can readers help? If you would like to donate your old running shoes, or learn more about #REUSEMYSHOES, log onto https://running4meyer.com/reusemyshoes/