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Talk of the Day -- Taiwan's unique Single Shoes Bank
Central News Agency
2013-12-22 04:59 PM
"Here, we sell one shoe at a time," says a sign in a shoe store in Taipei. It is one of more than 100 stores in the Family Shoes chain, which provides a service described as available only in Taiwan. The Sunday edition of the United Daily News had the story: In collaboration with the Cheng Feng-hsi Foundation for Culture and Education, Family Shoes caters to people whose two feet are different sizes because of polio or other conditions. Customers can buy one shoe or a pair that is of two different sizes. The sign in each of the retail stores has a logo shaped like a heart with a foot and a wheel and Chinese characters that read "Single Shoes Bank". The idea originated with the Cheng Feng-hsi Foundation, a charity set up in 1977 to commemorate its namesake, a teacher and writer who overcame the difficulties of congenital deformity of the legs to achieve household fame. The foundation was established by his wife Wu Chi-chao two years after he died of liver cancer at the age of 31. Without the single shoe service, some people with different-sized feet would buy two pairs of shoes, wear one from each pair and throw away the other two shoes because there was no use for them. Others would order custom-made shoes, but due to rising labor costs, prices have proved prohibitive for most people with special needs, said Ho Ying-yi, a music critic with polio. For the past 22 years, however, registered members of the shoe bank can go to a Family Shoes store to buy what they need. So far, Family Shoes, which has its own factories, is the only company in Taiwan that supports the program. In some other countries, there are programs under which people with special needs can exchange single shoes, but the concept of the Single Shoes Bank is not found anywhere other than in Taiwan, said Lin Tze-hui, head of the Cheng Feng-hsi Foundation's department of social welfare. In addition to allowing people to buy single shoes, the bank lists unwanted single shoes on the foundation's website once every season and gives them to members free of cost, Lin said. Although she moved to Canada years ago, Ho still buys her shoes in Taiwan. Since the start of the program, some 20,000 shoes have been sold to thousands of customers, said Sheng Kuo-cheng, vice president of Family Shoes, part of Taipei-based Mercuries & Associates, Ltd.

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