By Jessica Roy

Dan the Shoemaker

We have told some of you about Dan the Shoemaker. While in Kenya, we got to meet Dan, his lovely wife Emily and their amazing team! Together with our partners, we work very hard to create employment for as many individuals as possible living in the local community. Dan and his team are one of our newer suppliers and we are so impressed by their work.

From the front of the store you cannot see much, but as Dan leads us into the narrow corners of the workshop, it begins to be clear why this is not just an ordinary production. First, they handcraft a sizable number of long lasting shoes, and we see the amount of effort involved in producing each pair. From drawing and designing, to cutting and lining, working with precision is important.  Secondly, their business employs young people in the community who help with the finishing process. This provides much needed employment for the youth they employ.

I’m not sure who was more excited – us to finally meet Emily and Dan and learn their story or Emily and Dan to share it with us!

We learned that Dan’s story surprisingly connects to why we provide uniforms today. Dan grew up with a talent of drawing and designing. While in his teens, his father who was the breadwinner, died just before he joined high school. His family did not have much at the time, and one of the things his father left behind was a pair of bent shoes. The shoes did not fit Dan, he was a size nine while his dad’s shoes were a size seven. Because of the strict requirements of having the full school uniform, he had to wear those shoes to school as he had no other option. He was not alone, many children did not have access to shoes to attend school in those days. While in school, he could not remove his shoes due to the requirements, and so Dan suffered in silence. 

At this point, he began to wonder how he could make his own shoe that was a right fit. Determined to find a solution, he used his talent in drawing and design and started to practice and sharpen his skills in high school using different materials. This was the beginning of Dan’s dream to make shoes not just for himself, but for others as well. After high school, Dan went on to work for different shoe production companies, honing his skills until he later opened his own shop. He is now sought after by parents from his community, who know that the shoes are of great quality, and they are affordable.

While top shoe production companies have come knocking on his door, Dan is committed to growing his business in a way that serves the next generation of children and his community. He mentions that he would not want to compromise on quality for the sake of profit. We are excited about our partnership with Dan and Emily as they are currently producing over 600 pairs of shoes for some of the students we serve, and we’re confident this partnership has just begun.