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27january20111068Dharamshala: A new project has been announced to provide Tibetan refugees with a basic need that has gone unfilled for some time- shoes! The shoe-drive is being led by the Belgian organisation "Tibetaanse Vlaamse Vriendenkring" (Tibetan Flemish Circle of Friends), which involves itself in work of a cultural, educational and social nature for Tibet.

The coordinators spear-heading the project, Dennis Barbion (former UNFFT Ambassador for Belgium and Europe) and Marijke Reynaer, first discovered their love of the Tibetan community in October 2007, during a three-week Buddhist pilgrimage through India. The pair began their journey in Dharamsala, the largest outpost for Tibetans-in-exile, and were deeply moved by the stories they heard there about life in Tibet under the Chinese occupation, and the escape of many to Nepal and India.

They discovered that life will never be easy for people who have been forced to escape their own country and deal with the repercussions of an unjust war and invasion, and who then seek refuge in a foreign land in search of freedom, the preservation of their culture and education in their own language.

In 2008, Dennis and Marijke returned to Dharamshala to visit their Tibetan friends. Upon asking those they met what they could bring for them the next time they visited the town, the reply was unanimous: "shoes"!

So this was their project: to organise a small fund-raising project to raise money for shoes. The project, though modest, raised enough cash to provide 80 pairs of shoes to the community, an unexpected success! Pictures of the project can be seen on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dennisbarbion/.

New Year, New Initiative

Refugees often spend months or even years traveling through the Himalayas searching for safe passage to Nepal and India, and the long journey is often undertaken in a state of poor health and without adequate clothing and footwear. Life in Dharamshala is also challenging, as the roads and paths are rocky and in poor condition, and everything must be done on foot. The refugees often arrive with nothing and a new pair of shoes can be expensive.

For just $ 20,00 (€ 15,00 or £ 13,00) you can donate a new pair of shoes and help give someone a new start. Put yourself in a refugee's shoes, and you might not be very comfortable! The contribution you make will be greatly appreciated by whomever gets to wear your shoes, which will be bought and delivered in April 2011 beginning at the "Jampaling elder's home", a home for elderly Tibetans.

It is difficult to start all over again and providing even one pair of shoes can help put someone 'back on their feet', so to speak!
Tibetan refugees are ordinary people faced with incredible hardships and obstacles, and overcoming them is made infinitely more possible by a simple pair of shoes.

To donate a pair of shoes, please send $ 20 (or the amount you wish to give!) to the special "Shoe Project 2011" account: BE25 9795 9253 2282 (BIC-code: ARSPBE22 - name of the bank: ARGENTA). Please add "Shoe project 2011" to the transfer. If you wish to make a transfer via Western Union, or know more about the project, please contact Dennis:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., tel. 0032-

We are hoping to raise more funds in the 2011 project than before, and we hope you can find it in your heart to help us out.
Make a donation of $ 20 and do your part to support refugees. Provide a Tibetan refugee with a pair of shoes, and help get them back on their feet !