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MEXICO: Students in Salesian Programs Have Improved Health and are Better Prepared for School after Receiving TOMS Shoes

(MissionNewswire) Students participating in Laura Vicuña A.C., a network of schools and orphanages operated by Salesian Sisters in Mexico, were the recipients of new shoes as a result of an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and TOMS, a company that matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. Salesian Missions is one of TOMS One for One® Giving Partners.

The Laura Vicuña A.C. network provides education and shelter to youth, particularly girls, who are living in poverty in Mexico. Participants in the network attend Salesian-run elementary and secondary schools and are provided safe shelter, nutrition, clothing and school supplies.

In 2012, TOMS began distributing shoes to youth served by the Laura Vicuña A.C. network living within communities in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital city of the Sate of Chiapas in southeast Mexico. The area boasts a diverse cultural heritage but its residents have few economic advantages and often live in extreme poverty. Many lack adequate health care, access to clean water and sewage, education and stable jobs.

“Many schools ask parents to invest in required school clothing forcing families to prioritize which children they can send to school. Distributing shoes will open the way for more children to attend school, especially for girls who are often left behind at home,” says Jessica O’Connor, property and logistics officer at the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs. “When children are protected from the various illnesses and injuries associated with traveling barefoot, they are better able to participate and focus in classes.”

TOMS Shoes are provided to families that participate in Laura Vicuña A.C. education, health and economic development programs. The Salesian Sisters who run the programs offer poor youth, who are often struggling to survive, a place to live while meeting their basic needs and providing education and training in social skills to prepare them for the future. Health education is also an important part of the program and is offered to all participants.

As part of Laura Vicuña A.C. school programs, Salesian sisters combine the distribution of shoes with educational workshops that focus on the importance and health benefits of wearing shoes. Prior to receiving the new shoes, many students were forced to walk to school barefoot and others wore only hard plastic sandals that caused injury. Without shoes, youth are at-risk for injury, parasites, skin fungus and respiratory diseases, among others ailments. Because shoes are required to attend school, some families who could not afford shoes chose not to send their children to school at all.

In addition to distribution in schools, Salesian Sisters distribute the shoes in local villages. Provided along with clothing and food, the shoes are used as encouragement for poor youth and their families to participate in educational, hygiene and literacy programs.

“One of the methods that Salesian missionaries teach on the topic of health and welfare is the use of footwear for children,” adds O’Connor. “By distributing shoes to the children in Salesian programs, we can improve the health of individual children while also stressing the importance of wearing shoes among the community in general.”

As a result of TOMS Shoes, youth enrollment and participation in school has increased, students are more prepared for school activities, and there is less frequency of illness caused by walking barefoot. Shoes also provide students with a sense of dignity. Carmen, a 14-year-old recipient of TOMS Shoes who has lived at one of the Salesian orphanages since she was seven, previously endured a painful walk to school that limited her participation and ability to engage with her friends.

“My old shoes were a very hard material and gave me blisters and felt very hot in the heat as I walked to school. It was very painful. But my new shoes are very comfortable and allow me to walk to school better and play with my friends,” said Carmen.

More than 46 percent of Mexico’s population lives in poverty, according to UNICEF. Close to 53 million people lack access to education, healthcare, transportation and even the most basic necessities such as food and shelter. The poverty rate for youth in the country is higher at more than 53 percent and accounts for twenty million children and adolescents, five million of which live in extreme poverty.

Salesian missionaries in Mexico primarily direct their efforts toward the country’s at-risk youth, including girls and young mothers. Creating safe havens and improving educational opportunities are considered essential to deter youth from life on the streets where they are susceptible to drugs and gang violence.


In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in a village in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One®.

Realizing that One for One could serve other global needs, Blake launched TOMS Eyewear in 2011 to help restore sight to persons in need with every purchase of sunglasses and optical frames. In 2014, TOMS Roasting Co. launched with the mission to provide clean water to developing communities with the purchase of premium coffee.

TOMS is in business to improve lives. We identify global needs and create products to help address them. This simple idea is what makes us more than a company – we’re a movement that’s continually evolving.


Salesian Missions is headquartered in New Rochelle, NY, and is part of the Don Bosco Network—a worldwide federation of Salesian NGOs. The mission of the U.S.-based nonprofit Catholic organization is to raise funds for international programs that serve youth and families in poor communities around the globe. Salesian missionaries are made up of priests, brothers and sisters as well as laypeople—all dedicated to caring for poor children throughout the world in more than 130 countries. To date, more than 3 million youth have received services funded by Salesian Missions. These services and programs are provided to children regardless of race or religion. For more information, go to SalesianMissions.org.

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