LITTLE ROCK Heifer International's top executives are spending the day barefoot as part of a worldwide effort aimed at bringing awareness to people who live without shoes.
The annual "One Day Without Shoes" was created by TOMS, a footwear company which donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair it sells. Organizers say going barefoot is common in many countries despite a heightened risk of disease, injury and infection.
Heifer Chief Executive Officer and President Pierre Ferrari is among a number of employees taking part across the Little Rock-based nonprofit, which works to end poverty and hunger through its livestock and agricultural training programs. Others going barefoot for the day include the organization's chief operating officer, chief financial officer, vice president of human resources and executive office director.
Ferrari left the shoes at home before the mile-long walk from his condo to the nonprofit's downtown headquarters and later sat at his desk barefoot while working on the budget.
"My experience over the past few hours is a moment by moment reminder of the conditions under which too many people live," Ferrari said. "... It fits totally well with what we do."
Suzanne Munson, an account executive with Heifer, helped organize the effort after attending a lecture last year by the founder of TOMS Shoes. Munson was one of about 25 Heifer employees who went barefoot for the day, walking across the parking lot late Tuesday morning for a group photo in front of the headquarters.
It's not a direct equivalent of the conditions many people without shoes face, but going shoeless is a "good reminder," Munson said.
"I'm hoping that if it makes people think even for just one second how we have so much and people all over the world don't," she said. "Even for one second, if it makes them think a little bit more about how people around the world are living, I think that's worth it,"
Heifer's effort wasn't the only one in Little Rock planned as part of the awareness drive. Shoppers who go barefoot at the Box Turtle, a boutique in Hillcrest that stocks TOMS shoes, are being offered a 10 percent discount.
Organizers say problems in shoeless societies are widespread. According to the One Day Without Shoes website, more than 1.8 million Kenyan children are infected by burrowing fleas that cause painful lesions while 30,000 people in the Philippines live in a landfill where shoeless children walk among broken glass, syringes and debris.