Today on CNN Newsroom

The latest news and information from around the world. Also connect with CNN through social media. We want to hear from you.
November 12th, 2009
04:09 PM ET

Shoes for Africa: "Changing the World Two Feet at a Time"

"Changing the world two feet at a time." That's the motto of The ASHE’ Foundation, which just shipped 10,000 pairs of shoes and more than two tons of medical supplies to Ghana.

Below, CNN Producer Annika Young explains why she went to Los Angeles to meet the people behind the massive shoe drive.

(Click Here for Photo Slideshow)


I have shoes, several pairs in fact. Tennis shoes, pumps, wedges, sandals, flip flops, even cowboy boots. I have shoes. I never imagined not having shoes. Admittedly, I never gave much thought to the fact that somebody, somewhere, doesn’t have one pair. Does that make me a bad person? Don’t misunderstand me. I ache over homelessness and poverty. I pray for the “big” things, but I never thought about shoes.

Dion Fearon did. She is the founder of The ASHE’ Foundation. ASHE’ is a Yoruba word that means ”the power to make things happen.” Fearon made something happen after receiving an e-mail bearing the image of feet clad with flattened two-liter soda bottles, fastened only with strips of fabric. It was that imagery that tugged at Fearon until the tugging became a pull and the pull a push to start a movement that became “Shoes for Africa.”

The ASHE’ Foundation’s mission is change the lives of millions of children in African nations who have been orphaned by HIV and AIDS. It was after hearing Fearon’s story and then meeting her in person, so bright-eyed with passion and purpose, that caused me to examine myself, head to toe.

Now I see shoes. I see what a new or gently worn pair of shoes can mean for a child who has never owned a pair. I see shoes like The ASHE’ Foundation sees shoes. I see the importance of “doing” something. You may never be the one to start a foundation or write a check, but the idea is to do “something.”

–Annika Young, CNN Writer/Producer

To learn more about The ASHE’ Foundation and its upcoming mission to Ghana and it domestic effort “Shoes for L.A.” log on to

Filed under: Don Lemon
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. jontymark

    I never gave much thought to the fact that somebody, somewhere, doesn’t have one pair.

    Ultimate Acai Max

    November 14, 2009 at 5:13 am |
  2. Lucy

    There's a man in my church who also collects shoes for Africa. His name is Rotimi. You should come to Brooklyn and do a story on him. My church goes to South Africa and those of us who can't go send shoes; I've sent some myself. We worship at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Hope to see you soon.

    November 14, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  3. Tonya

    Beautiful story. I will donate to this organization because the people behind this are very inspirational and you can see that they truely care.

    November 15, 2009 at 2:24 am |
  4. Afro-Realist

    While a great effort and show of philanthropy, it still always confuses me how blacks could think there is no need here. Here, all across America.

    Sad, her heart is in Africa. She'll never support the children here who need her help too! Sad...very very sad.

    November 15, 2009 at 4:56 am |
  5. Keith Hayden

    I currently have three boxes of shoes, and I have packed these
    boxes the same way that you packed them as I watched you on the
    CNN report on Sunday Morning, 11/15/2009 at 6:30 a.m. I would really
    like to be a part of this wonderful mission,please respond back.

    Keith Hayden
    Owner / Designer
    KNJ Live Monogram Roses

    November 15, 2009 at 7:39 am |
  6. wanda

    You may never be the one to start a foundation or write a check, but the idea is to do “something.”

    How about if I just sit back and ache over shoelessness? Doing "something" is clearly just to feel all warm and fuzzy about how noble and altruistic you are. If you truly "ache over homelessness", why have you not opened your home to a homeless person? Or does that let the problem intrude too far into your "real life"?

    November 15, 2009 at 8:00 am |
  7. NewTone

    With all the Organizations created to do nothing but protest
    against Health Care or improving the lives of our own People.
    We have a new Hero who is thinking about others and making a difference. This is a very worthy cause. I have donated in the past
    but was never sure that my donation would reach the people it
    was intended to help. I feel very good about this choice.

    November 15, 2009 at 8:41 am |
  8. Sandy Heckt

    What a beautiful gesture.I wish you much success and may God Bless you one and all for your time and efforts to help those less fortunate..God will reward you twicefold.

    November 15, 2009 at 9:05 am |
  9. Danielle

    @Afro-Realist: The ASHE' Foundation is doing Shoes for the U.S. which is amazing. They've done a foot washing and shoe distribution in L.A. Yes, efforts are needed in the U.S. However, there is unspeakable poverty in places with NO resources except what we (US) donate as a result of our waste. So...all that said...what are YOU doing in your community?

    November 15, 2009 at 10:09 am |
  10. Kelly


    While I can appreciate your compassion for needs in America. It really puzzles me that you would compare that need to children and families needs in Africa. You can tell by everyone involved in this wonderful program that true appreciation was given. Not to sound harsh but its refreshing to see children who have such a profound since of self, and respect for what's been given to them. Children here expect that and a lot of times have a sense of entitlement when it comes to such acts of kindness. This was done from the heart and extreme passion from within! When its all said and done Africa is the motherland of all and there is nothing wrong with lending a hand through these kinds of organizations that you actually get to see the result....really can't say that we truly see that here in America!

    November 15, 2009 at 10:31 am |
  11. Called-To-Serve

    Like the heros of Isarel , Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, we are all called to serve in a specific capacity while here on earth.

    It is our responsiblilty to seek and fully understand that purpose and calling. Once we have done so, through obedience and sacrifice we must carry it out in an orderly manner.

    The ASHE Foundation has a clear understanding of their purpose while here on earth and that is to serve. When asked where to begin, the response is "Africa". When asked how to start, the response is "trust me and I will provide". When asked, "just Africa", the response is, "no, but this is where I've called you to begin. It's not just about serving the displaced in Africa. It's about serving and teaching others to serve in the capacity they are called to."

    Therefore, trust and believe that the mission of this foundation is bigger than Africa. Without a doubt the individuals being used as vessels for this foundation, are serving a world through their actions whether it be mental, physical or spiritual.

    November 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  12. P. Brown

    Was watching the story about the shoes for Africa. I think that this organizationg is doing an amazing job. I can't believe that they are not funded, yet. CNN needs to do a follow up story on them and keep the people notified on the progress.

    Great story, Great Organization!!!!!!

    November 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  13. Galass Ndiye

    Done I would like to thank The founder of The foundation that sending shoes to Africa I am from Senegal West Africa I know how Important it is to help Africans . I would like to participate to that foundation so i can do my part. I come to U.S.A since 2001 I am so greatful to be here. I elso heard about Opparah's fantastic job to help Africans I am just hopping one day to have a chance to Associate myself with people who are doing shuch a good Job helping us .

    November 15, 2009 at 10:35 pm |
  14. Kate

    It is not sad. It is a wonderful thing she does. It may not be your cause, but it is hers. We do not all need to have the same cause, or put our effort in the same place. If we all just did something–anything–things would be so much better. My cause is not the same as hers, is not the same probably as yours, but I am doing something to make the world a better place.

    I have always said to my friends, don't feel like you need to join my cause. Find a way to help improve the world. Find a cause, any cause and follow it. Save the whales, donate shoes to Africa, hold babies in the pediatric ward by your home, volunteer with the eldery in your own town, sponsor a child in the Phillipines. Anything.

    Just please please don't do nothing. And even worse, please don't do what you are doing–criticize people who make a difference in our world. THAT is sad. Very very sad. Criticize, if you must, those who do nothing.

    November 15, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  15. Nunajer Bidnis

    Mike Sandrock, Dr. Rock, of Boulder, Colorado started sending shoes–by the hundreds, then thousands–to Africa since the mid-1980's. where credit is due.

    November 15, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  16. arnold m lane

    Im intersted in your org can you send more information

    November 16, 2009 at 1:52 am |
  17. Felicite

    I would like to thank Afro-Realist for his/her comment. I too feel same way about Mrs. Young non profit organization.

    Why not take care of home first. When a person or more can take of their neighbor, church family, community therefore they are able to take of others.

    It would have been beautiful to see Mrs. Young organization doing great things in her community first. And her community would turn around to help others such as the children in African.

    I'm a person who do not like to see other people complaining about something thats important to human rights. Therefore I have started a non profit free after school tutorial program. Talk is cheap and action is very removable to any problem.

    November 16, 2009 at 6:32 am |
  18. victoria suominen

    Africa needs freshwater deep wells, property rights managements to encourage agriculture, and effectuive local security at the village level. Maybe to someone living in the city, a pair of shoes is a wonderful gift. But in rural Africa, shoes are problematic because of the waste when they are no longer useable. Leather, chewed by small wildlife, contains tannins which will kill them. Shoes made of rubber and vinyl release toxic fumes if they are burned instead of buried in a landfil. However, if donating shoes is what you people want to do, then go to your local university and put collection boxes in the dormatories. Most students have a second-hand pair they would be willing to donate and it would save the Salvation Army from having to discard them because the volume of clothes SA receives is quite staggering.

    November 16, 2009 at 6:32 am |
  19. Felicite

    I would like to apologize for listing the incorrect name in my previous comment. I was referring to Mrs. Dion Fearon who is the founder of the non profit organization.

    November 16, 2009 at 6:37 am |
  20. anita brown

    I think her heart is in the right place.It's not where you go it's what you do.Sure it's people everywhere that need help.And people that make comments about helping the people right here at home should help them.stop talking and do something.There's enough world out here to help everybody that need help.Just reach out and help.stop complaining about where we should be helping.AND REACH OUT and HELP SOMEBODY!

    November 16, 2009 at 8:42 am |
  21. Barry Lyons

    The Ashe' Foundation is doing an oustanding job of displaying the power that the Bible declares in the book of James. "Faith without works is dead." Their cause is worth whatever hand, help, donation, or investment you can make!

    November 16, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  22. Ed

    To Felicite: If you listen to the interview, you will realize that the ASHE Foundation is helping people in its local community – the Los Angeles area – providing shoes to children and helping the homeless. It also has a growing domestic program to provide shoes to children across the US. Ms. Fearon is organizing local community organizations and churches to solve these problems locally and in Africa. Finally, it is not only about shoes – 2 tons of medical supplies have been provided. This is the type of leadership that builds better communities locally.

    November 17, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  23. Yvonne Gordon

    I love this passion.....Africa needs our help. I was touched by the CNN piece. Let me know what I can do in my community. If I collect shoes where shall I sent them to?

    Keep up the Great work !!

    November 21, 2009 at 9:01 am |
  24. Nadia Smallwood

    I would like to put a personal spin on MsFearons efforts and life. It is certainly to be applauded all of mankinds kind gestures and deeds. Opposed to scrutinizing ones efforts, we should all look within ourselves and give a little more. Ms.Fearon has been reaching out and taking care of many since she was 16yrs old, I have witnessed this in the states as well as abroad. She has painstakingly given to so many anonymously . Including but not limited to car payments, house payments, college tuition, barrel's upon barrel's to her native Jamaica and her community and so much more. It has always been her hearts and spirit desire to help all, although she too has suffered greatly. She continues to aspire to a greater need and forcibly by self determination in the great face of adversity to continue to know her is to love her and even when you can't love yourself she will give you that part of herself too. I am most proud to claim her as a woman of greatness!

    November 21, 2009 at 10:25 am |
  25. Ms Reform

    @Felicite and Afro Realist... It is very sad to think that yal dont see all the suffering and devastation in Africa... I understand that yal believe that it should all start in America but what yal dont realise is that Ms. Fearon is actually making a difference to many lives including those IN AMERICA. Many people would like to leave this earth knowing that they have made a difference to the lives of others, rather than criticising others for taking initiative. Come to Africa and see it for yourself to get a better understanding of the dire need... Ms. Fearon, we love you... May you and your foundation continue to change lives...

    November 24, 2009 at 10:18 am |