Courage and initiative Generosity People

Maddie steps out on a shoe-string


In September 2017, 16-year-old Maddison McQueen-Davies (Maddie) created ‘Share a Pair’, a remarkable initiative to provide shoes to kids at school who can’t afford them.

To date, Maddie has organised the collection of 502 pairs of shoes, while 247 pairs have been distributed to students in need in Palmerston North.

“It’s just a pair of shoes”, says Maddie, “but without them it can lead to wet feet, sickness, missed school days, being embarrassed, or in some cases students can be withdrawn from class if they don’t have the right footwear.”

Maddie displays some of her shoe stock – all ready for collection.

Maddie’s mum, Tania McQueen-Davies, works at a low decile school and used to hunt through second hand shops to find shoes that would help students stay in school.

School shoes are low on the priority list when there are things like electricity, rent and food to pay for… providing shoes helps families take one thing off their list,” says Maddison.

Maddie observed that ex-students at her school were often discarding their school shoes or leaving them, forgotten, in the back of a wardrobe.

Share a Pair

This inspired her to launch ‘Share a Pair’ collecting unwanted, good quality footwear from the community and inviting students who need shoes to come and receive a pair that fits.

Students are delighted to receive their ‘new shoes’ and grandparents and parents have expressed deep gratitude.

Tania and Maddie estimate around 50% of people coming to receive shoes are grandparents caring for their grandchildren.

At times whole families have arrived at the door to pick up shoes for school, and it’s often grandparents who bring them and are really grateful for the extra support.

Maddison reflects that the experience of launching ‘Share a Pair’ has been really humbling and eye opening and how lucky she is to have always had decent shoes.

Saving people from embarrassment

Maddie reported that people can sometimes be embarrassed by their situation and by having to ask for help.

She wants people to be able to receive the shoes they need without embarrassment.

For example, when she realises kids from her school have come to pick up shoes, she will ask her mum to help them find the right pair of shoes, to protect their identity, so they won’t feel awkward if they see her around school.

A section of the family’s garage is set aside to sort and store shoes for students in the community.

When asked what advice she would give to others wanting to do something similar Maddie said:

“Make sure you connect with the right people. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help… adults are happy to help kids… use what you have available.

Just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you can’t do something.”

And Maddie has done exactly that, inviting the community to join her efforts through ‘Share A Pair’ and reducing lost school days caused by inadequate footwear.

Shoe donations growing

Businesses and individuals have donated school shoes and sports shoes to assist students to participate in all school activities.

In town, Kelly’s Footwear and Vautier Pharmacy have agreed to act as collection points for shoe donations and pass them on to Maddie, while Facebook posts have helped spread the word with 17,000 people seeing some posts.

Good quality shoes donated to Share a Pair .

Additionally a generous grant from the Mazda Foundation has meant that Maddie can purchase the larger size shoes she is often short of.

Maddie plans to keep collecting and distributing school shoes.

Although initially she has been providing shoes for high school students she has seen the larger need and is looking to expand into primary and intermediate schools.

This year she aims to connect with other regions to ask if they will do something similar.

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