Effective footwear for underprivileged children

When podiatry graduate Tara Goswell embarked on self-funded trip to Northern India, her primary goal was to provide affordable effective footwear for underprivileged children.

Fresh from receiving her Bachelor of Podiatry from Southern Cross University on the Gold Coast, the Cabarita local booked her tickets to the Palampur region in North India, home to many farmers and tree plantation pickers.

“As a podiatrist I know how important footwear is and how fast kids grow, so after I read an article on the innovative USA company ‘The shoe that grows’ I fundraised and purchased scores of shoes, as many as I could fit in my luggage,” she said.

“These shoes are designed to ‘grow’ five sizes and last a child five years, which I thought was such an innovative initiative and idea.”

Tara spent four months in India, volunteering with refugee Tibetan children, many of whom had been orphaned or separated from their parents who remained in Tibet.

“My role in India was health education paired with teaching English to these children, many of whom had no families and lived in homes together with no adults in the homes. Most were only around 10 years old - it was heartbreaking,” she said.

“The schools over there are primarily run through international and government funding, and the teachers weren’t able to provide caregivers to so many children in need.

“I knew how dangerous it is for children in India up near the Himalayas to not be wearing shoes, and I saw firsthand the kids who could come to class in socks and adult sized sandals. It seems silly but I was a bit nervous to give out some of the shoes, as they’re not the most fashionable, but the children loved them and went out and played straight away.”

It became apparent to Tara that delivering shoes wasn’t the only way she could help the children of Palampur.

“Podiatry is a health degree and these children needed health education around things as simple as drinking clean water, basic hand sanitation about their diet, which are all things we cover in our degree,” she said.

“I was able to run first aid training with the older kids and some of the teachers, who I still keep in contact with. It was amazing to see how grateful the kids were. These refugee children had been through so much, yet were so mature and determined to get an education and to help the other children.”

Earlier in her podiatry degree at Southern Cross, Tara travelled on cross-disciplinary podiatry and exercise science study tour to Tianjin, China on a New Colombo Plan Scholarship, to learn about additional therapies such as cupping and dry needle massage though Tianjin University.

“Travelling to China was a highlight of my degree at Southern Cross, as well as studying on the Gold Coast in fabulous facilities including a massive podiatry lab which overlooks the ocean. We had great lecturers who were very accessible and supportive, and being a smaller University means the students are really friendly and you tend to know everyone in related degrees.”

When Tara returned home to Australia from India in 2017, she was offered three graduate podiatrist positions and now works fulltime at the Ripley Back and Foot Clinic at Ripley, west of Brisbane.

“In most health professions it can take a while to see results, but one of the things I really enjoy about podiatry and motivated me to study it, is often you are able to treat ailments right then and there, such as toenail issues and corns, where people are able to stand up right away and see instantaneous results,” said Tara, aged 23.

“Other times you have people with foot pain and that can take a few more appointments, but being able to decrease their pain and increase their health-related quality of life is very rewarding.”

Read more about studying podiatry