Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie and Academy Award winner Charlize Theron both set out to improve children’s lives. It’s no wonder, then, the two have partnered several times over the years with special collaborations that benefit kids in South Africa.
In a Footwear News exclusive, Theron speaks about the power of celebrity and her latest collaboration with Toms.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in doing philanthropic work?
“We have learned so many lessons, it’s hard to pick. It’s easy to become jaded in this world and feel as if humanity is apathetic, but the deeper I have dived with the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project, the more I’ve realized that people want to help. People do care — a lot of times they just need help learning what role they can play. That’s what’s so great about Toms: They give everyone a way to be part of change.”
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What do you look for in charitable partners?
“Partnerships are at the heart of the CTAOP — we are just one small group trying to do our part, but global challenges like HIV will never be solved if we don’t all push in the same direction together. When CTAOP partners — whether with our grantees, other nonprofits or companies like Toms — we look for an alignment of values. We ask questions like, ‘Do they believe in truly investing in young people? In empowering and equipping youth to live healthier lives and build the futures they want for themselves?’ “
Tell us the goal behind your upcoming collaboration with Toms.
“I hope that the collaboration helps continue to shine a light on the deep need for HIV prevention among youth, and the fact that in parts of the world, HIV/AIDS is still very much devastating families, communities and entire countries. Beyond that, I hope the products give people an opportunity to play a part in changing that reality.”
How have you used your fame to improve the world?
“Everyone has a part to play in making our world better. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been given an opportunity and a platform to speak about an issue that is very important to me. I hope that maybe one talk given or one piece written reaches someone in a way that encourages or inspires them to do what they can to make a difference. This is what #GenEndIt is all about. We can be the generation to end AIDS, but everyone has to get involved. That could mean having safer sexual relationships, knowing your own status, volunteering at a local clinic, or maybe just learning the facts about AIDS.”
Explain the most challenging part about doing charitable work.
“The hardest part about this work is being patient. It’s easy to get discouraged by the scope of a global challenge like ending AIDS. Sometimes it feels insurmountable, but every time I get to visit some of the projects and hear from the young people, I get recharged and I realize that even the small changes matter and take us one step closer to reaching the end of AIDS.”
Why is doing good important to you?
“I often talk about the spirit of Ubuntu. It’s an African philosophy that roughly translates to ‘I am because you are.’ In South Africa, there is a strong sense of community, and growing up I saw that all around me. I still very much believe that we are all connected and that we need to respect that philosophy and help lift each other up.”
What inspires you?
“There is so much that inspires me. I’m particularly inspired by our grantees and their staffs. These are people who dedicate their every day and every breath to making others’ lives better.”