Lepra Ambassador, Stuart Paver recently returned to India to see our Shoe Van project in action. Stuart was the driving force behind and funded the first van in Bihar through his company, Pavers Shoes. The project provides, safe, custom footwear to people with disabilities caused by leprosy and lymphatic filariasis through mobile vans.
Stuart spoke after his last visit about his desire to see more vans in operation and since then two more vans, in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have taken to the road, expanding the reach of the project and the numbers of people who can benefit.
Of his trip, Stuart said:-
“It remains an incredible privilege to be able to help support these vans work in the community and to see first-hand how effectively and efficiently they are being used to help people with leprosy and other debilitating conditions.
When I last visited I hoped that at least two more vans could be made operational and I am very proud that has now become a reality with the help of the Pavers Foundation.
There is still more to do, and in my role as a Lepra Ambassador, I am encouraging the footwear sector to embrace this simple, yet effective way of changing lives and look forward to being able to expand the project further in the future with their support."
Each year, Lepra provide 26,000 people with custom-made shoes, which allow people to go about their daily lives with reduced pain and chance of injury. One of the major dangers of leprosy is reduced feeling in feet can mean people do not realise when they injure their feet, which can lead to infection and even amputation.
Perhaps most importantly, they enable individuals who do have disabilities to continue to work and earn a living and children to return to education – preventing them from falling further into poverty.
Our custom-made shoes are designed, made and fitted by our specialist shoemakers. Each pair is unique, made to that person's individual requirements in comfortable micro-cellular rubber. The moulded soles are padded to increase the weight-bearing area and reduce pressure so that the foot is stable and given support exactly where it's needed.
In the last year, our shoes have evolved with different styles and colours available, meaning there are now some choices available for how the shoes look.
Crucially, these now look like other shoes that can be purchased at a local market. This is priceless to people who are worried about being recognised by their shoes as leprosy or LF patients and reduces prejudice and discrimination.
The van includes a sewing machine, a generator, a grinder for pressing soles, and materials to make bespoke footwear. It also includes beds and cooling fans as the shoe technician and driver live in the van whilst covering the many miles between their stops.
Your donations can help to provide this safe, comfortable and now stylish footwear to people affected by leprosy.
Just £6 will buy a pair of these new design shoes, giving not only vital support and comfort but also a choice of how the shoes look, reducing the worry of being recognised as someone affected by leprosy or LF by the footwear.
Next entry: Lepra attend the International Leprosy Congress