Soles4Good collects shoes from students to send to El Salvador

Wilson Federman ’24 sorts through piles of shoes donated from local students.

Natasha Speiss

Soles4Good, an organization founded by Amaan Furniturewala ’21 and Alec Katz ’19 in 2017 that helps women in developing countries start businesses selling used shoes, sorted through over 4,200 shoes March 20 and 28 to ship to Project Fiet in San Salvador, El Salvador. This shipment is funded by the Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship grant from the school program HW Inc.

Student-run Soles4Good helps women start their own businesses.

Soles4Good runs drives to obtain shoes and ships them to the women they work with. The first batch of shoes is donated to the women, and Soles4Good teaches them business principles through a series of workshops. The women later purchase shoes from Soles4Good at a set rate using their new income, which allows the women to budget for outside costs in their business and become less dependent on donations. Eventually, the women fully transition away from Soles4Good donations and purchase local shoes from outside the organization, making their businesses independent.

The shoes in recent drives were collected from local schools, such as Brentwood School, Palisades Charter High School, John Thomas Dye and Paul Revere Charter Middle School. Finance and Data Analytics Head Carter Staggs ’23 said his favorite part of the shoe sorting process was working together with the team.

“We each seemed to specialize in a specific job in small teams that ended up working very efficiently,” Staggs said. “Personally, I was in charge of taping and double taping all the boxes, which was a lot of fun.”

Co-Lead Aariz Furniturewala ’23 said Soles4Good operates under the motto “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” Aariz Furniturewala said the womens’ businesses have improved the lives of those in their communities, as there is a great demand for shoes.

“In order to go to the state-run schools in El Salvador, you need shoes,” Aariz Furniturewala said. “A lot of the kids don’t have those and that means they can’t learn. So not only are shoes going into these communities that need them, but the women who sell them get empowered as well.”

Soles4Goods Co-Leads said meeting and successfully empowering the women they work with is the most rewarding part of their experience with the organization.

Due to COVID-19, Soles4Good is unable to do their mission trips and instead has partnered with other organizations like The Do-Good Organization in Nigeria and Project Fiet in El Salvador to virtually teach the women about entrepreneurship. Co-Lead Rowan Jen ’23 said that the most touching part of the trips is getting to know the women they work with.

“I was immediately struck by the character of the women,” Jen said. “[They] were not only eager and hardworking but also extremely capable and poised, asking great questions and giving suggestions for how the program could be improved. We learned that the only thing these women were lacking was opportunity.”

Aariz Furniturewala said the most rewarding part of working with Soles4Good is seeing the women they work with grow to be able to provide for themselves and their families.

“One of our beneficiaries is now able to send her own kids to school and is making $45 a month, which doesn’t seem like a lot until you realize rent is $25 in El Salvador,” Aariz Furniturewala said. “We actually got a note from her about all the progress she’s made, which felt really rewarding. We empowered a single mother and now she’s empowering the next generation.”