Lizzy Standbrook took our Feet First Barefoot Challenge last month. Here, she blogs about her day.
On 1 June I woke up unusually early, in unusual surroundings, ready for an unusual day. I was staying in a hotel in Pimlico ready for the launch of the Leprosy Mission’s Feet First appeal, aimed at preventing disability in Mozambique.
Appeal T-Shirt emblazoned with ‘Barefoot Challenge’, toes painted, and the side of my right foot hashtagged ‘#FeetFirst’, I left my hotel room. I felt purposeful and excited knowing I was going barefoot to be part of something incredible, but I was apprehensive – I only go barefoot outdoors on the beach! What would people think? Would they say anything as I left the hotel?
I was suddenly very aware the hotel was dated, and the carpet… dusty to say the least. I took a snap of my feet to put on Twitter.
There was something about leaving the hotel and being “different on purpose” that made me feel less self-conscious than anticipated. I was looking forward to telling people about Feet First.
Despite a mild June morning, the pavement was very cold. I was very aware of mess, marks and mud, left over kebabs from the night before! I had to walk slowly, and noticed every crack in the pavement, the discomfort of stepping ‘on the lines’. The bumps at Vauxhall Bridge crossing, for the visually impaired, were totally unavoidable and very painful to walk on.
I smiled at someone walking past. Instead of returning my smile, the guy in a business suit crossed the road to avoid me and my bare feet, sheer embarrassment on his face. I had a sudden, unexpected insight into the experience of someone with leprosy, who may have visible disabilities that mean they are often stigmatised and excluded from their communities. Most wouldn’t meet their eyes either.
Pimlico station and the crowds of the underground were uncomfortable. The escalator’s metal steps (I made a quick video for Facebook); crowds of people rushing to the tube in heavy footwear. People whistling and looking away as I walked past. Finally a barefoot sprint finish at King Cross – just in time for the train!
At the end of the day it was a relief to soak my tired feet. The most surprising feeling of the day was vulnerability – of being unavoidably noticeable, at risk of injury, slow and unsteady, and the process of having to consider every step. The last visit of the day to the supermarket to buy food: “Will they actually let me in?”
Something I will never have to consider again, but something for which someone with leprosy is a daily experience.
Will you take up the challenge like Lizzy and go barefoot for the day to raise money for our Feet First project? Until 31 August, the UK government is matching donations to the campaign, so every £1 donated becomes £2! Don’t miss out on the chance to make twice the difference in Mozambique.