In one of former US president Barack Obama’s hope-inspiring quotes, he said: “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

On the contrary, today I feel a bit more hopeless about my attempts to do good for those who are poor and are in desperate need. I feel as though I failed to fill the world with hope.

Last year around this time, it was a cold Monday morning in June. I made a few visits to the primary schools (Grade R to Grade 6) at home, that is the villages of Pankop, Phake and Mmametlhake, in Mpumalanga. The aim of the visits was to inspire the little ones to keep their dreams alive, and to remind them of the importance of not losing hope, even when it seems like all the odds are against them.

On such visits, I always arrive at the school before most of the pupils make their way to school. It was cold, yet so many of the pupils were wearing shoes with holes. The shoe-soles were finished, and it ripped my soul apart. I witnessed this heartbreaking need for shoes in all the schools I visited. It broke my heart.

So, I came up with a way to collect shoes for about 2 000 pupils, to ensure that every child from the 13 primary schools in those villages gets a pair.

Upon pondering on what to do to help them, I realised that the class of 2008 is marking a 10-year milestone since they matriculated (which I am a part of). I then proposed a shoe drive called: #ShoeYourWayToSucess. This initiative was created as a project to ensure that the children of those three communities have shoes. So, with a few alumni from the villages’ high schools, we shared the posters, sent out proposals to different and relevant companies. We also asked individuals to donate shoes.

As I braved the cold in Joburg on Monday morning, feeling my cold feet inside my hole-less shoes in socks, I thought of those boys and girls at home who are wearing shoes with holes.

Excluding the two pairs I bought, I have collected only 10 pairs of kiddies shoes. There are probably reasons behind the lack of interest, or perhaps the VAT increase hit pockets too hard. But I tried my best to make people aware of this urgent matter.

The truth is, a pupil’s education journey starts with a pair of shoes. I had hoped to get more shoes. Even if it was a 100 pairs, it would have been better. I do appreciate the 10 pairs I received, and I know that they will ensure 10 pupils have proper shoes. But I was hoping for more, I am still hoping for more.

Michael Tshepo Tabane said this about his sad upbringing; “Those shoes had holes in them, I would even feel the ground while walking, if it rained, Yoh, my feet would be so wet that you’d swear I was walking barefoot.”

I may have lost hope in the matric class of 2008 helping me make this dream come true, and getting these pupils to shoe their way to success, but I hope that they carry the spirit of Tabane, who said; “My shoes had holes, but my feet had hope. No matter how many holes your shoes have, your feet should always have hope about the journey.”

I was hoping to get these pupils a pair each before the chill of winter sets in. However, it is fast becoming a hopeless situation, because winter is here. If there is anyone, somebody who can help and donate, I would appreciate it a lot.

The shoes with holes will still need to be replaced with a new pair even after the winter, and I still believe that these kids should shoe their way to success with a good pair of school shoes for their feet.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the chairperson and founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM). Email, [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala.