Shoe Program Archives - WaterStep

60,000 pounds of shoes means a well for a community in Uganda

Last month for World Water Day, we challenged the WaterStep community to collect a semi-truck full of shoes to help bring water to a village in Uganda – about 22,000 pounds of shoes.

We were blown away by the response. Schools, businesses, churches, and individuals donated their bags of used shoes by the dozens, collecting a total of not one, not two, but three semi-trucks of shoes.

That’s over 60,000 pounds of shoes.

People from around the country hosted shoes drive and participated in shoe challenges:


World Water Day KUNA shoes 2

Middle school and high school students from all over Kentucky brought their shoes to the YMCA Kentucky United Nations Assembly (KUNA) throughout the month of March.



World Water Day North Carolina shoe drive

Sandra Davis in North Carolina decided to lead a shoe drive inspired by the memory of her late husband, and ended up collecting half of a semi-truck of shoes.




World Water Day Delaware shoe drive

And 17-year-old Emma Rider in Delaware collected a full semi-truck of shoes, making this her fifth tractor trailer load since she started collecting shoes to support water projects when she was 12.




World Water Day Hite Elementary shoes

Fifth graders from Hite Elementary School came by our headquarters for a field trip to see what their shoes were doing to provide safe water to people that need it.

And so many more! For everyone who held shoe drives or who dropped off their shoes here in Louisville, thank you. Your shoes mean we will be able to dig a well for the small community of Kaabowa Village in Uganda. Thanks to your help, we’re starting the first phase of our project there, digging a well so that more of the community has nearby access to water.

After that, we’ll be installing household filters, setting up water purifiers, building latrines, and implementing a community health program for students and families. Learn more about the project and how you can help provide safe water to Kaabowa Village.


See the project

World Water Day Uganda well 3

World Water Day

World Water Day water and sustainability 2


This Sunday, March 22, is World Water Day. In honor of this year’s theme – Water and Sustainability – I wanted to share a photo that we’ve never shared before. This photo comes from a school in Costa Rica, where WaterStep has one of its longest-standing programs. School girls are brushing their teeth and washing their hands at a sink. When my team tested the water at their school in 2013, it turned black with fecal contamination. When we showed the water sample to the principal, his face turned white with surprise.


School staff, including the principal, were trained how to operate and maintain the system. This is always the most exciting part of an installation. After being trained, you turn the tables and ask the trainees to train the trainer. Their faces change as they become confident in their ability to operate the system and provide safe water for their students. They no longer have to depend on someone else.


The students at this school depend on water at school, not just for drinking, but for eating, brushing their teeth, and washing their hands. Before, all of the students knew the importance of hygiene, but they were performing basic hygiene practices with dirty water.  Now, trained staff members are able to continue to provide safe water every day for their students, so they can drink, eat, wash their hands, and brush their teeth with safe water. That’s a powerful thing, and it’s powerful because it’s sustainable.


The United Nations created World Water Day as an annual effort to call attention to the importance of safe drinking water. In Louisville, Kentucky, where I live, just one penny can provide 66 glasses of water from the faucet but around the world,  748 million people around the world lack access to safe drinking water – that’s more than 2 ½ times the population of the United States. World Water Day is a day to celebrate what we’ve accomplished, and to look forward to what still needs to be done. In the last ten years, we’ve come a long way to providing safe water the millions of people that don’t have it, but we still have work to. There are still schools like this one.


There’s a school just like this in the rural community of Kaabowa Village, Uganda, where we are working to build a program as sustainable as the one in Costa Rica. You can be a part of World Water Day by helping us reach our ambitious goal of 22,000 shoes by March 22 that will support the first phase of this project.


Are you local? Want to learn more about the importance of water in the world and how you can be a part? Join us this Sunday for World Water Day at the Louisville Water Tower for a day of educational talks, interactive activities, and family fun to celebrate the world’s most precious resource. Guests to the WaterWorks Museum will learn the value of drinking water in this community and worldwide by helping to create a “water main” that will stretch across the front of the Museum.  Guests can also donate spare change that will benefit drinking water efforts in other communities through the Louisville Water Foundation.

WHEN: Saturday, March 22nd, from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

WHERE: WaterWorks Museum at Louisville Water Tower Park, 3005 River Rd., Louisville, KY 40207


World Water Day water and sustainability 1

Volunteer Spotlight: 13-year-old collects 600 pairs of shoes

by Lauren Hack

A quick post to celebrate one of our great volunteers. Thirteen-year-old Kylie from Florence, Kentucky, hosted a shoe drive last month and collected 642 pairs of shoes! Thanks to Kylie, these shoes will support safe water projects in communities around the world.

Florence Kentucky shoe drive for safe water


How do we turn shoes into water? Donating new and gently used shoes can provide water to someone that needs it. Shoes are sold to an exporter and the funds received support WaterStep’s mission to equip people with safe water solutions in developing countries.

This a win-win-win situation, and here’s why:

  • People get the safe water that they need. The shoe program helps to bring safe water to thousands of people every year. Providing safe water helps to eradicate the waterborne diseases that keep too many people from leading the full, productive lives they deserve. A person that was sick before can now spend time doing something else, like getting an education, learning a work skill, or taking care of her family.
  • Shoe businesses support local economies. Once the shoes leave WaterStep, our exporter sells the shoes to local vendors in some of the same countries where we do water projects, contributing to small business ventures that support the local economy.
  • Less waste goes to landfills. Shoes that might have been thrown away are re-purposed, keeping hundreds of tons of waste out of the landfill.

Thanks to volunteers like Kylie, one pair of shoes can provide affordable footwear, help to build the economy of a community, cut down on waste, and, in the end, help someone get safe drinking water.

Interested in donating your used shoes or hosting a shoe drive? See the Shoe Page for more information.

Community Shoe Drive in Peoria

When communities come together to collect shoes, they support water projects around the world. That is exactly what one Peoria community did.

Peoria Shoes

When accountant Denise Henderson from Peoria, IL saw the impact that her church made through a shoe drive, she decided she could multiply their efforts by starting even more shoe drives in the area. Henderson works for the Iona Group and alongside other motivated coworkers,  they contacted local businesses, churches, and organizations to host shoe drop-sites.

The Iona Group has been extremely successful, collecting 11,000 shoes in 2012, and over 15,000 in 2013. The Peoria community’s efforts will provide safe water to more people across the globe.

Starting August 1st, the Iona Group’s third shoe drive will begin with 45 drop-sites around the Peoria and Morton areas.

Iona Group Photo

“As a community, Peoria has done a fantastic job in collecting shoes, probably more so than any other community that we work with,” said Water Step Chief Operating Officer Greg Holt. “And we’re in several different states collecting shoes.”

The next shoe drive will kick off on August 1st. Check out more info in this article form Central Illinois Proud or this article from the Journal Star.

You can call Denise at 309-263-4662 to get involved.

Water Challenge: Jennifer Simpson’s Story

Guest blogger Jennifer Simpson shares how she got involved with WaterStep and what motivates her to collect shoes. For more on shoe collection and how you can support safe water projects, go to our Why Shoes pages. 
Last summer my church, Southeast Christian, had a sermon series on getting out of your comfort zone. At the end of the series, we were challenged to commit to some kind of change for 6 months and were given several suggestions. One of the suggestions was to drink only water for 6 months while praying for those around the world who don’t have clean water, also asking God how He can use you to make a difference. I knew this would be stretch for me, especially giving up my morning cup of joe. So I took this water challenge from August 15th to February 15th. While it was a great experience and deepened my prayer life during that time, I wasn’t sure what kind of “action” I should take on this subject. In March, I had read about the mayor’s week of service in April, and saw that Waterstep needed groups and individuals to sponsor a shoe drive. Though this was an extremely busy time of year for me, the idea of doing a shoe drive wouldn’t leave my mind, so I decided to sign up to sponsor a shoe drive. I asked friends, family, and neighbors to donate shoes. My son helped me sort, count, and line them up on the driveway. The bonus was that I was able to talk to my ten year old about how shoes can help others around the world. This was the perfect way to close the chapter on my “water challenge” and I am excited to see how Waterstep is changing lives around the globe!

Jennifer Simpson JenSimpson_shoes