Letters to the Editor

TOMS, Take 2

I read Susan Page’s column extolling TOMS Shoes. While I am a fan of helping others, I must disagree with the model that TOMS Shoes has set up, namely blindly throwing money (or goods) at a problem without taking the time to research the potential ramifications of those handouts.

Last summer I spent time in northern Uganda, learning from local teachers working in the post-conflict area. While there, Jolly Grace Okot, a local woman and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, came to speak to our group. “Stop sending us your shoes,” she said to us. She noted that shoes are made and sold in every country in the world, and that clothing and shoe donations such as TOMS One for One program accounted for 50 percent of the lost jobs in Africa between 1981 and 2001 – because handing out free goods competes with local industry, which only increases poverty and the need for handouts.

TOMS markets itself as a company that gives back, but the detriment of the work they do spreads much further than a pair of shoes. By giving handouts, we make people in other cultures reliant on our own “good will.”

Rather than investing in locally run organizations that encourage sustainable development of creativity and industry within communities, we take away that independence by giving them things, which will inevitably need to be replaced (by more things we give) within a year or so. Handouts take away dignity, telling the receivers that we don’t really believe they can be successful on their own. We need to be encouraging people by investing in their abilities and ingenuity, thus allowing those in other counties to thrive as we build a truly international community.

Partnerships and collaborations allow dignity to develop as we learn to respect and support each other, making a strong global chain by encouraging strength in every link rather than building a one-sided reliance just so we can feel good about ourselves.

Shaaroni L. Wong Honolulu

Right to peddle

Re: Bob Jones’ column on Waikiki street vendors: The First Amendment of the Hawaii and U.S. constitutions guarantees the freedom of speech on public sidewalks. The artists, beggars, handbillers, jewelry makers, street performers and sign-holders are protected under the First Amendment.

Please read Revised Ordinance of Honolulu, Chapter 29, Article 7: Handbilling in the Waikiki Special Design District.

Peddling is prohibited in Waikiki (ROH 29-6.2(c)(7)). But under the First Amendment, artists, beggars, jewelry makers and street performers are allowed to seek and receive donations.

Tom Copp