SHOETIME: Donations of shoes helped remote township.
SHOETIME: Donations of shoes helped remote township. Contributed

Coffs locals lend a hand to the Kimberley

THE generosity of Coffs Harbour residents has helped a remote indigenous community in the East Kimberley of Western Australia.

The tiny community of Balgo, four hours south of Halls Creek on the Tanami Rd, population 350, knows where to find Coffs Harbour on the map after a call for help from former local podiatrist Jenny Kitchen was answered by Coffs residents, John Clark and Elise Crofts.

Jenny has spent the past couple of years working in The Kimberley, mainly visiting remote indigenous communities, and was shocked by what she found.

"The community is plagued with a disproportionately high rate of feet problems with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, ulcer formation and minor and major amputations above the non-indigenous average," she said.

"The local store sells basic items, but footwear availability is extremely limited.

"On my February visit to Balgo, I was appalled by the lesions I was seeing.

"With hot days at around 46 degrees, sandy walking tracks through town, and very limited capacity for wearing shoes, the scale of burns to the feet I witnessed was pretty bad and in some cases, it appeared as the soles of the feet had effectively 'melted'."

Jenny said the Catholic Mission ran an op shop, and when shoes eventually made their way there, they were snapped up very quickly.

"There is still a huge void in available footwear and this, I believe, is a travesty considering our consumer way of Western life.

"Frustrated, I aired my views on Facebook, and the reaction was one of great support."

John Clark and Elise Crofts arranged the purchase and donation of footwear.

"The shoes have since been flown to Balgo and their arrival has been greeted with enormous enthusiasm and gratitude," Jenny said.

"My dream would be starting a shoe collection campaign in every town in Australia and have these shoes donated to remote residents throughout Australia who have no direct access to footwear."



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