When LH’s Mary Browder suggested I buy Roma rain boots for my family for Christmas, it was a friend-to-friend helpful hint, the kind many LH Mommies share with each other this time of year. She was also hoping to support her friend Samuel Bistrian, who founded the company that makes the boots. Samuel grew up poor in Romania and created Roma as a way to give back to children in his native country. Mary didn’t know that I’d been looking for a gift for my own daughter, Lindsay – who happens to be serving in the Peace Corps (and speaking Romanian) in neighboring Moldova.
Bistrian, whose wife Alejandra teaches at Wilshire Baptist’s Early Childhood Learning Center, was featured in a recent Dallas Morning News article for his work to combine a boot-making business with charity for children. Much like the popular Toms canvas shoes, for every pair of rubber rain boots they sell, Roma Provisions will distribute boots to children living in poverty in Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine. Bistrian knows first-hand that children are literally going barefoot in the snow back home, with many losing toes to frostbite each year. He couldn’t believe his luck when, at age six, he was given a used pair of boots all his own. The gift made a big impression.
Fast forward a few years and Bistrian was working for Neiman-Marcus at NorthPark when he met Toms founder Blake Mycoskie. Putting together his desire to help his people, the knowledge he gained working retail, and every dollar of savings, Bistrian birthed Roma Provisions. By Christmas, he hopes to have 5,000 pair of boots on the feet of children.
Even before I heard from Mary, Lindsay’s blogs made me aware of the desperate need in Eastern Europe. As a Peace Corps volunteer, Lindsay lives comfortably compared to some townspeople in her village of Chisinau, with plenty to eat (her host family grows their own vegetables and pigs) and available (though unreliable) internet connection. She treks through the snow to use the outhouse she shares with her family, and on a recent Skype visit, she asked me to mail her warm socks. Don’t tell her, but now she’s getting Roma rain boots for Christmas. And maybe a child in a nearby village will be sporting a pair just like them.
You can follow her blog using this link, or type in PeaceCorpsLindsay.com.