Shoes for Hope project connects Korean and Sri Lankan youth

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 16, 2017 - 17:11
  • Updated : Jun 16, 2017 - 17:14
Hundreds gathered in Gwanghwamun Square earlier this week to paint sneakers with colorful messages of hope in an effort to connect with Sri Lankan youth.

The “Shoes for Hope” initiative is a worldwide sharing project, where shoes are painted with messages of peace and love in one country and distributed to people elsewhere who may not otherwise have the ability to purchase them. 

Shoes on display included ones designed by President Moon Jae-in and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon  (MIZY: Seoul Youth Center for Cultural Exchange)

Over 62,000 pairs of shoes have been sent from Korea to young people in Uganda, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia and more in the last decade. Sri Lankan youths were deemed the most needy this time around.

“There are still the aftereffects of the civil war in Sri Lanka,” event manager Jiwon Yu, said. “The country is in need of international attention because of the huge flood this May.”

Young Koreans gather to design their messages of hope onto provided pairs of shoes (MIZY: Seoul Youth Center for Cultural Exchange)

On display over the two-day festival were exhibitions of 400 pairs of shoes organized in heart and star constellations. Educating the public on Sri Lankan culture was also incorporated, with busking performances, photo spreads of cultural landmarks, and taste-testing of Ceylon teas available to attendees.

Representatives from the Embassy of Sri Lanka gave a congratulatory address and expressed their gratitude for the donations. 

An attendee poses with the heart-shaped shoe exhibit at the “Shoes for Hope” event (MIZY: Seoul Youth Center for Cultural Exchange)

Those who signed up were given a blank pair of shoes, colored markers and a piece of paper with a shoe outline to “design” their creations. Families were seen painting shoes together, and excitedly taking photographs with the ones on display designed by celebrities including Yuna Kim and Rain. 

The 1500 pairs of shoes collected this time will be delivered to Sri Lanka in October by the Seoul Youth Center for Cultural Exchange (MIZY), who organized the event in collaboration with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and The Daesan Foundation. Their aim is to provide international exchange programs so Korean youth can become global citizens. 

A young girl paints a message of hope onto a pair of sneakers during the “Shoes for Hope” (MIZY: Seoul Youth Center for Cultural Exchange)

“By sending on the shoes Korean youth made an effort to draw on, we hope to satisfy the need of Sri Lankan youth and make some emotional connections for them,” Yu said. 

Local Sri Lankan performers entertained crowds through traditional dance over the weekend (MIZY: Seoul Youth Center for Cultural Exchange)
“Moreover, Korean youth were able to foster their interest in human rights, a global village, and world citizenship while participating in this creative and fun volunteering activity.”

By Aparna Balakumar (