TOMS Shoes to send alumna to Honduras

Mimi Refuerzo, an ASU alumna who teaches special education in Gilbert, won a TOMS Shoes contest to travel to Honduras to give shoes to children in need. (Photo by Mackenzie McCreary)

ASU alumna Mimi Refuerzo moved to Arizona in 2009 to work with the nonprofit organization Teach for America, but will be leaving for Honduras in May to give shoes to underprivileged children.

Refuerzo finished her master’s degree in special education at ASU in 2009 while working for Teach for America.

Refuerzo works at Gateway Pointe Elementary in Gilbert, where she and two other instructors work with students, teaching them academics and social skills.

“I’ve always been interested in education,” she said. “It’s been a very enlightening experience.”

While at work several weeks ago, Refuerzo received a call asking her to be part of a trip TOMS Shoes will take in May.

“I’ve been buying TOMS for at least five years,” she said. “My first pull was the ‘One for One’ movement.”

TOMS Shoes started the “One for One” movement to help children in developing countries who go without shoes for most of their lives.

The movement matches every pair of shoes sold and donates them to a child in need.

Refuerzo said she is excited for the opportunity to give shoes to the children.

“I hope we can play and interact with them,” she said. “I am grateful I get to see more of our amazing world.”

This will be the third time Refuerzo has travelled abroad to help children.

She spent two months in Tahiti working in an orphanage for girls in 2007.

“Education goes both ways,” she said. “The girls taught me so much. I learned to be flexible, to adapt and, most of all, to be grateful.”

Two years later she spent a week in Grenada with orphan boys.

“We worked outside all the time,” she said. “It wasn’t as academically inclined, it was outside of the box education.”

Education does not always happen within a classroom, she said.

“I feel there are lots of things picked out and learned somewhere else that will make a person productive,” she said. “That’s also what I try to do with the kids at my school.”

Refuerzo was the first to introduce the “One for One” movement to her sister, Marianne Herricht.

“If anybody deserves it, it’s her. She is the perfect candidate,” Herricht said. “She deserves the recognition.”

Refuerzo hopes this trip to Honduras will help her start a career in philanthropy, and would like to start her own nonprofit organization.

“My life is pretty good so I want to better the life of other people,” she said.

Larrain Rosenberg, one of Refuerzo’s colleagues, said her work at the school is outstanding because “she is so giving.”

“This couldn’t have happened to a better person,” she said.

Rosenberg said this trip is perfect for Refuerzo.

“This is so up her ally,” she said. “This is exactly what she should be doing. I see her turning this into a career.”

Learning about other cultures is essential for her future, and this trip opens up many opportunities to do so, Refuerzo said.

“(Cultures) fascinate me,” she said. “It widens your perspective on what goes on in the world.”


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Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated which country Refuerzo worked in an orphanage for girls in 2007


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