by Sarah Borich—Cedarville, Ohio
Believe it or not, one Cedarville University alumnus is attempting to use footwear to change the world.
Cody Fisher lives in northern Iraq and works for Millennium Relief and Development, a non-governmental organization in the Kurdistan region. Recently, he and a friend created a unique business—Buy Shoes, Save Lives. They’re working together with local businesses to export their handmade shoes throughout the world. The shoes are called klash and, according to some accounts, the Kurds have been making them since about 600 BC.
The idea was born when Fisher and a friend made a short, documentary-style film about how the shoes were made. They began to wonder if there might be a market for exporting klash to other countries. Often frustrated by financial barriers when trying to fund their humanitarian efforts in Iraq, they became hopeful that selling the shoes might boost the struggling local economy as well as contribute toward relief efforts.
With the business up and running, Fisher and his friend are using as much of the proceeds as they can (and 100% of the profits) to help Iraqi children in need of heart surgery. Iraq has one of the highest percentages of heart disease among children, with many dying from causes that could be easily addressed with access to the proper medical care. Buy Shoes, Save Lives is working with an organization called Shevet Achim to send the children to Jordan for the surgeries they need.
“This is not only saving kids’ lives,” Fisher says, “it’s building bridges between the Arab world, where the kids are from, and the Jewish world, where they receive the help they need.”