By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
When Palisadians come together, they work to make a difference—whether it be in their surrounding community or the rest of the world.
Palisadians Layla and Leena Adeli recently collaborated with their schools to contribute to Soles4Good, an organization led by Harvard Westlake freshmen Rowan Jen (who happens to be their nextdoor neighbor) and Aariz Irfan.
Soles4Good is a student- founded organization that collects shoes and ships them abroad to women in developing countries to sell themselves. Doing so “create[s] sustainable, lifelong business that generates consistent sources of income,” according to the organization’s mission statement.
“Soles4Good is an organization that strives to empower women to create their own micro-businesses selling shoes,” Rowan explained to the Palisadian-Post. “We provide them with sustainable solutions and help them become self-sufficient.”
Aariz told the Post that he gained interest in leading Soles4Good through his brother, Amaan Irfan Furniturewala, a junior at Harvard Westlake, who helped found the organization alongside his friend, Alec Katz.
“I saw footwear as a major need during my time living in India and recognized that I could make waste productive by recycling shoes,” Amaan said.
But Amaan has stepped back administratively in part to academic and extracurricular obligations, leaving Rowan and Aariz in charge.
“I would likely want to move on from Soles4Good after graduating high school,” Amaan said. “I’ve put much of my effort into putting together a team that can lead Soles4Good in the future—Rowan and Aariz have been just that. Their collective work ethic and talent continues to impress me.”
Rowan shared that he and Aariz have been leading Soles4Good for the last year, organizing shoe drives and getting more people involved.
“We’re committed to empowering people rather than simply giving, we focus on the long-term rather than the short-term by providing solutions that are realistic and will help them hopefully for the rest of their lives,” Rowan shared. “We’re able to collect shoes here, where an abundance go to waste, shoes are some of the most wasteful productions in our society.”
Although the organization is still relatively young, its professional capacity and early accomplishments have already made an impact: Soles4Good has collected a total of roughly 5,000 pairs of shoes.
The organization took launch in Senegal, West Africa in 2018 where more than 1,000 pairs of shoes were donated—allowing two cousins to establish their own micro-businesses: They sold all the shoes in less than six months.
Soles4Good headed to El Salvador for its second year of giving in 2019. They worked with Project Fiat, a nonprofit organization, to select a cohort of women who were deeply in need.
They helped 11 women found their own businesses, offering training in basic accounting and inventory management from December 28 through January 5.
In the first two weeks, the women sold 68 pairs of shoes.
“The experience of giving back has been extremely rewarding, and the success of our missions has been empowering,” Irfan said about the mission. “Going to El Salvador this past winter break was very eye-opening.”
The Adeli sisters, Leena, a seventh-grader at Paul Revere Charter Middle School, and Layla, a freshman at Palisades Charter High School, most recently helped organize shoe drives at their schools after being inspired by Rowan’s work.
Leena, with her friend Katie Lee, made announcements and distributed posters around Paul Revere to inform their peers about the shoe drive to collect as many shoes as possible. They placed bins around campus and ran the shoe drive from March 2 to 6.
Layla decided to reach out to her teammates on Pali High’s cross country team to ask if they, or their siblings and family, had any shoes to donate. She also placed a donation bin in one of her teacher’s classroom who spread the word to her other classes.
Through their efforts, they have amassed a collective total of 1,500 pairs of shoes so far.
“The plan for the collected shoes is the same as last year, we’re planning on sending another shipment of shoes to El Salvador and hopefully following that shipment up with a trip of our own,” Rowan said. “And we’re hoping that we can find 10 or 11 more women and be able to give them the same opportunity.”
And the organization doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.
“We’re really interested in expanding and giving as many people as possible the opportunity to experience this form of giving,” Rowan said. “To anyone who wants to run a shoe drive and get their community involved in a project like this, we would love to run shoe drives in other communities and look forward to the bright future for Soles4Good for the rest of our high school careers and onto the future.”
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