ABARO is encouraging corporations to sponsor the first black school shoes for underprivileged children.
What began as a small-scale corporate social responsibility (CSR) effort has turned into an annual initiative benefitting thousands of school-going children.
The Abaro school shoes brand under Resta Enterprise Sdn Bhd tackles one of the most visible signs of poverty among children by giving them new school shoes to attend school with dignity and joy.
Now the shoe supplier is inviting corporations to join them in helping underprivileged children own their first pair of black school shoes after Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik’s announcement to replace white school shoes with black shoes.
“It all began when I came across newspaper articles reporting on how poor children in Laos walk barefooted or wear ill-fitting shoes to school,” said Resta Enterprise Sdn Bhd executive director Teri Soh.
The children’s feet had severe calluses with cuts and bruises, in addition to them facing other health challenges that comes with poverty.
In Laos, 23.3% of its people live below their national poverty line, according to the World Bank. Many families are unable to afford adequate clothing.
“For low-income families all over the world, shoes are one of the most expensive items to buy.
“Having to choose between feeding their kids and giving them proper shoes, we all know what the answer would be,” Soh said.
Since 2016, Resta Enterprise has given out close to 21,000 pairs of Abaro school shoes to poor and needy children in Laos (through Laos My Home Foundation) and in Malaysia through corporate partnerships. The company also has its own corporate social responsibility initiatives.
“Shoes are a basic necessity that is essential for the school day.
“When we give shoes to a child, we give so many other things including hope, dignity and joy,” said Soh.
“A new pair of shoes can be life-changing for kids in need. School staff and parents tell us that students with new proper shoes show an increase in self-esteem, improved behaviour, higher attendance and participation in classes,” Soh shared.
From collating thousands of feet sizes to distributing shoes accurately, Soh’s team is well-versed in the whole shoe-giving charity process having learnt and developed new processes through trial and error over the years.
“Whenever we carry out large-scale projects, it is always challenging to collect accurate shoe sizes for thousands of kids in one go, especially for our remote Laos projects,” she said.
Fortunately, her team has come up with a creative solution.
“We now use our own reusable size chart to ease the measurement and distribution process,” Soh smiled.
The company’s unique experience and track record in shoe-giving have made them the go-to organisation for Malaysian corporations.
Their previous charity clients include Felda Malaysia, Sunway Bhd, PPB Group Bhd, and local and overseas non-profit organisations.
More recently, 100 schoolchildren received new Abaro shoes at a Hari Raya celebration attended by Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad.
“Our shoes have touched many lives, but we are far from done. Our business model incorporates charity-giving as part of our operations. This means the more Abaro school shoes are sold, the more shoes we can give out to needy children,” Soh added.
On top of the company’s CSR promise to give out 2,000 pairs of shoes every year, Soh also highly welcomes corporations and organisations to partner them in reaching out to more needy Malaysian children own their first pair of black shoes from 2019 onwards.
“We are happy that there is a one-year grace period in 2019 whereby students can wear either coloured shoes. Parents can have more time to make the transition, but let’s not forget the plight of the less fortunate children,” Soh said.
“No child should ever have to go to school without proper shoes.
“Together, we can help kids improve their self-esteem and participation at school by eliminating one of poverty’s most visible and belittling signs,” Soh added.