A Barefoot Challenge: End Child Poverty

Leave it to a 13-year-old to put his foot down on child poverty. His dirty little bare foot. In the second annual Barefoot Challenge. Bilaal Rajan, the Youth Ambassador for UNICEF Canada, went shoeless on Tuesday to better understand how millions of impoverished kids walk through life.

"I’ve visited countries in Africa and met with hundreds of children who walk miles every day barefoot to fetch water, work on their farm lands, or go to school," Rajan, a 9th grader at Lakefield College School says. “It made me think of what life would be like to live without something we take for granted.”

Rajan knows now. He took off his Nikes on Sunday, and he’s been shoeless ever since. No word on whether he stepped in gum or stubbed his toe, but it’s clear his efforts are making a difference. June 1 was officially declared Barefoot Challenge Day by Peterborough, Ontario and the cause has made an, um, stink worldwide.

A student in Brunei wrote on the event’s Facebook page that his barefooted English class brainstormed two full whiteboards of thoughts on improving life for the world’s impoverished youth. Participants from the UK and US have also chimed in, and the event has raised more than just awareness. Thousands of dollars have poured into UNICEF in support of the event.

Of course, the Barefoot Challenge has its critics. One Facebook bully writes: “So the only way you guys have of raising awareness of child poverty is by doing something unsanitary and retarded?”

Rajan responds:

“Thank you Sam but how can it be ‘retarded’ if you care about the people you are trying to help? Try going Barefoot just for one hour to understand what they go through everyday all the time. And the fact that you are thinking about Child poverty is one step closer to doing something about it. Together We Can Make A Difference.”

Talk about putting a foot in your mouth.

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