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How One Sold-Out Yellow Shoe Becomes Education for Hundreds of Kids in Need

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It is a sweltering Juneday in Comunidad Candelaria, a community in the Rio Bravo, Boca Costa Region of Guatemala, andit seems the entire 750-person population has gathered at the local primary school to watch a box—labeledCaja des Mis Sueños, or «box of my dreams»—be buried. It carries the wishes of 198 students: «There will be an architect in the community,» «I will be a psychologist,» «I hope to bea teacher one day,» «I want to be a doctor.»Right nowthe box sitsbeneath a plot of rocks and dirt, but three months from now,one of five new classrooms currentlyunderconstruction will be standing in its place. — Continue Reading BelowGerson Noé Ixchoc Mas, an 11-year-old fourth-grade student, is excited at the prospect of no longer learningin a makeshift space. The current schoolwas built five years agobutresembles more ofa shed with itsmetal sheet roofand dirt floor, and classes are often taught under trees because ofthe incredible heat. PoP’s plan is to build five classrooms and seven bathrooms―a necessity considering some kidstravel 30 minutes to go home just to use a restroom.»It was so hot and noisy. When the teacher spoke, it was hard to hear her and understand what she is explaining,» Gerson says.The new classroom, he thinks, will help him «feel more comfortable learning.»Nick Onken — Continue Reading BelowComunidad Candelaria is one of the newest builds by Pencils of Promise (PoP), a nonprofit organizationdedicated tocreating schools and educational programs for communities in need in developing countries;currently it’sin Guatemala, Ghana, and Laos. On this day,thekids’ handmade «welcome» and «thank-you» signs, along with a plaque that will soon hang atthe school,all bearone name: Stuart Weitzman. This is the first of three schools the shoe company will build―an emblem of the brand’s long-term dedication to positive impact.The story of the yellow shoeThe partnership between Stuart Weitzman and Pencils of Promisebeganwhen vice president of retailLori Sigismondo met Pencils of Promise founder Adam Braun at a wedding. Stuart Weitzman has a history of working with women-focused initiatives, like ovarian and breast cancer research, but were on the lookout for a new partnership.Gigi Hadid, pictured with Bella, in the Pencils of Promise x Stuart Weitzman NearlyNude SandalsGetty Images — Continue Reading Below — Continue Reading BelowIn April, Stuart Weitzman debuted the limited edition Pencils of Promise NearlyNude shoe ($398) in PoP’s signature yellow color. Theshoe has already been seen on the likes of Gigi Hadid, Olivia Culpo, Solange Knowles, and Joan Smalls. One hundred percent of the shoe’s proceeds go toward PoP, and those funds are solelydedicatedto building three schools, one each in Guatemala, Ghana, and Laos.Stuart Weitzman — Continue Reading Below»Education is the basis of everything.We just felt that this was a right fit,» chief marketing officer Susan Duffy tells ELLE.com.»We really invest a lot of people power, advertising money, it was really a 360-degree approach. Everyone in the company was 200 percentbehind it.»Visiting GuatemalaThe partnership didn’t end with the creation of the now sold-out shoe. Last month, the SW team headed to Guatemala, where 2 million children do not attend school, 30 percentof students don’t finish thefirst grade, and 44 percentof kids livingin poverty have no literacy skills at all.Donor trips—in which sponsors are brought to meet students, teachers, andcommunity leaders;take part in workshops with the kids;and help with building activities—are a big priority for the organization. «You can see photos, you can see pictures, but actually meeting the individuals and local employees is very important,» Natalie Ebel, director of marketing for Pencils of Promise, says.On this particular trip, the Stuart Weitzman team visited five schools, where they metteachers, kids, and parents. At one pointa man even invited the team inside his home,a bare-bonessingle room without running water that was shared bya family of seven. «That was an incredibly moving moment,» Duffy says.»I was touched by the gratitude.»Stuart Weitzman CMO Susan Duffy painting a school with a student.Nick Onken — Continue Reading Below — Continue Reading BelowPoP Guatemala country director Jorge Bolom broke down exactly how PoP helps. «It’s important thatthe community take the lead in their own development, that they take ownership of the project. As an organization, we are a guide leading them toward the development to succeed,» he says. This is accomplisheda few ways. PoP’s schools are built with 20 percent participation from the community―through manual labor or fundraising for the cost of building materials. A teacher support program helps train educators. «Promise Committees» made up of adult volunteers (equally split between men and women)ensure PoP’s model is being successfully carried out even after the PoP team leaves. So far, 100 percent of the 353 schools that the organization has built are still up and running, educating students daily.Nick Onken — Continue Reading Below»My goal is to help people, and a lot of indigenous peopledon’t get support,» Bolom says. It’s a cause that hits close to home for him. He grew up in rural northeast Guatemala and attendeda schoolthat lacked resources. People in these towns, he says, «don’t have the opportunity to get an education, and as a result their futures are limited. They often stay in their village.»Ultimately, Bolom ended up going to college in the States.»If I didn’t go to college, I probably would be in my village right now withfive or six kids already,» he says. «When the donors visit and create a relationship www.afan.dk , seeing them helps inspiremany of these kids to get an education.»Nick Onken — Continue Reading Below — Continue Reading BelowBreaking ground»Pencils of Promise’s investment is a huge support afan ,» saysAlba Julia Agustín de León, a teacher at Comunidad Candelaria.»In the past, a lot of other organizations came to visit our school to take pictures and collect data, but they left and never returned.» She alsosays she looks forward to having «dignified» classrooms for the students. Lack of furniture was especially a challenge with 198 students and just nineteachers.»My hope is for [the students] to have a vision and mission―to exceed expectations to become a part of the future of this country,» she says.Nick Onken — Continue Reading BelowTeam Stuart Weitzman breaking ground on their new school.Nick OnkenAs Stuart Weitzman’s school progresses, the local PoP team will be visiting to ensure everything is running properly.PoP will also be sending Stuart Weitzmancontinuous updates on the school’s progress. That is somethingDuffy looks forward to:»The smiles on their faces were just incredible,» she says.»I’m just seeing their eyes filled with hope.»

How One Sold-Out Yellow Shoe Becomes Education for Hundreds of Kids in Need

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