Around the world, TOMS partners with organizations that invest in and advocate for local community leaders — those change-makers who help raise their communities out of poverty and help create more opportunity and a better future. That community-based approach, together with their deeply integrative giving programming, made TOMS a natural fit for partnership with Eastern Congo Initiative.

For many former child soldiers and vulnerable children living in DRC, the cost of attending school prohibits them from doing so. According to the World Bank, only 61 percent of Congolese children are enrolled in primary school. And while that statistic is alarming, its implications are almost more vital to understanding the need for attendance. In the Congo, school does not just mean reading and writing; for many it also means a comfortable, safe place to spend time.

Many children must also walk great distances to attend school, and lack the proper footwear to navigate the jagged volcanic soil found in the region. To help promote school attendance, ECI has engaged with TOMS to become a distribution partner for new TOMS Shoes to children through multiple community-based organizations.  These Congolese partners help open the door to education, as well as skills training, counseling and necessary medical care. 

At selected sites, the organizations distribute each pair of TOMS Shoes alongside a pamphlet with pictures to illustrate the importance of school and the consequences of belonging to armed groups.

ECI works to provide local people with important information where they are already consuming it. In addition to distributing pamphlets, the organization shares information on local radio to educate communities through public broadcasts. Community mobilizers — advocates who go door-to-door to find children in need — also teach parents, kids and extended family the importance of education, highlighting it as the single most important intervention that can have a long-lasting impact on the future of the Congo.

For these reasons, among many others, we are proud to have been collaborating with TOMS as a Giving Partner since October 2012, and are now happy to work with TOMS to introduce a range of special-edition shoes available for purchase.

Inspired by Congolese textiles, the TOMS x Eastern Congo Initiative shoes (for men and for women) represent a shared commitment to inspiring change for and by the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each purchase still means a new pair of shoes for you and a child in need, but it also helps fund ECI’s partner programs for youth and families in the region.