Counterpart partners with TOMS to protect children’s feet in Azerbaijan

November 21, 2012

Arlington, VA (Nov. 21, 2012) — From their one-room mud brick house in the Agdam region of Azerbaijan, 11 year-old Huseynzade  Sahibe and her mother collect discarded glass and pots to earn money selling the shards. But it’s not enough for them—just two of the many displaced and impoverished people settled here—to keep clothed and fed.

“Though I am not so old, I have seen much hardness in my child world,” said Huseynzade. “Sometimes we couldn’t find bread. Sometimes we couldn’t find a dress, and even I was wearing shabby dresses thrown by people.”

For a girl used to scrounging for cast-offs, the gift of a new pair of comfortable shoes gave Huseynzade the gift of warm, safe feet and a chance to feel like a kid again.

Counterpart International distributed tens of thousands of new TOMS shoes in August, September and October to school-aged children in 14 regions of Azerbaijan – a country with one of the highest numbers of displaced people in the world.

“This successful distribution is a great example of what we can achieve when the private and nonprofit sectors partner to help communities,” says Counterpart President and CEO Joan Parker. “Something as simple as providing a pair of shoes changes a child’s life in terms of health, education and dignity.”

A partnership that delivers

The partnership between TOMS Shoes and Counterpart enables both to fulfill their missions: TOMS’ of giving a pair of shoes to a child who needs it for every pair purchased under its famous One for One™ model, and the nonprofit of helping communities in need of humanitarian assistance. (

This is the first time Counterpart and TOMS Shoes have partnered together.

The shoes will allow poor children in these villages to attend school comfortably, and relieves a financial burden on their parents, most of whom cannot afford to replace their growing children’s footwear.

“My old shoes were in very poor condition,” said Huseynzade. “Now I can easily walk around, go to school, and play with children in the yard. For this reason this present has made easy my life.”

TOMS Shoes started its movement in 2006 because many children in developing countries grow up barefoot. “Whether at play, doing chores or going to school, these children are at risk,” the company said.

Immediate need, long-term commitment

In Azerbaijan, as in other developing countries, soil-transmitted diseases such as hookworm can penetrate the skin through bare feet – one of the leading causes of infection, TOMS Shoes reports.

Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.

“TOMS Shoes and Counterpart share a commitment to sustainability,” says Parker.  This will not be a one-time engagement with these displaced communities.”

Counterpart has provided humanitarian assistance in Azerbaijan for more than 15 years under the U.S. Department of State-funded Community and Humanitarian Assistance Project. That program, which ended Sept 30, provided commodities such as school and medical supplies, clothing, tents, tarps and sleeping bags.

Counterpart’s commitment to improving the lives of Azerbaijan’s communities extends beyond immediate needs.

Its many reconstruction projects have renovated schools, medical facilities, and community centers in villages across the country. Its Women’s Participation Program works to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to raise public awareness of issues that affect women, and empower more women to engage in political processes.

Counterpart International helps people build better lives and more durable futures, community by community. For 50 years, Counterpart has been an innovator, changing the way people look at, and solve, global development challenges. Today, we are working with more than 3,500 local organizations, and more than 150,000 leaders — including women and youth — in 24 countries around the world. Learn more

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