Belfast Telegraph

Baring their soles in a bid to highlight poverty

Shoeless walk record attempt fails... but it’s still a remarkable feat

By Victoria O'Hara and Kirsten Elder

More than 1,000 people went barefoot in the park in Belfast yesterday in a bid to break a Guinness World Record.

Shoes and socks were removed by young and old in Belfast in an attempt to achieve the largest barefoot walk at the Stormont Estate.

The event was aimed at highlighting how millions of people across the world are too poor to buy footwear and exposed to injured feet and disease.

The lead organisers, Summer Madness, urged as many people as possible to help break the world record which was set in India in 2010 by 2,500 people.

At 12.30pm, and in between Easter showers, shoes and socks were taken off and exposed toes touched the pavement and grass.

Despite a “great effort” the record was not broken, with 1,214 people who walked one kilometre up and down Prince of Wales Avenue officially taking part.

But organisers said they were delighted by the turnout, with people from England, Dublin and Londonderry taking part.

Among them was Carly Cranston who completed the walk with her twin Ashley and other sister Charlotte.

The 21-year-old from Belfast said: “Your feet went numb for a while. But it was great fun.

“I think by trying to break the world record makes it fun but also raises awareness about something that is serious.

“It is just a great way to share and try and make a difference one step at a time.”

Nine-year-old triplets Rose, Alex and Harry Garrett from Castlereagh were among the first to set off.

They had come with their mum Helen, older sister Erin and brother Connor.

“I wanted the kids to appreciate what it would be like to have no shoes and experience that reality, I think it is very important,” Helen said.

“Kids get so much these days they don’t really understand. They see the like of Sport Relief and it is on TV, but they don’t really understand.”

A number of charities and agencies involved in the event included Stand By Me, Tearfund, Fields of Life, Girls’ Brigade, Big House Ireland, Damaris Trust and 3 Rock Youth.

John Kee, director of Summer Madness, said although the record wasn’t broken they were very pleased with the crowd who came from all over the UK to help.

“I think we have done really well, I’m not sure if we have broken the record but I feel we have broken through to people’s psyche so they have begun to get the impression of what it can be like not to have a pair of shoes to your name, what that means to go barefoot maybe all of your life.”

He added: “Millions of people don’t have the luxury of owning a pair of shoes, much less have a clear path to travel, and as a consequence suffer from disease and soil transmitted infections.

“I think it has got people thinking and that was really one of the main objectives of the day.”

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