There is an old saying about walking a mile in somebody else's shoes before you can really understand them.
But a Whangarei woman is preparing to walk 33 kilometres barefoot to help people understand the plight of the poor in Cambodia.
Music therapist Katie Boom, originally from Whangarei but now based in Wellington, is preparing for a challenging fundraising walk: 33km without shoes.
Ms Boom, 25, spent five months in Cambodia in 2012, and on her return to New Zealand decided to go barefoot for six months to try to raise awareness and funds for the thousands of children in Cambodia whose lack of footwear remains a barrier to education. That six months has stretched out to three-and-a-half years.
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She founded the Kiwi-based charity Shoeless NZ in 2013 and has since raised thousands of dollars which has brought hope to the lives of about 1000 Cambodian children. Shoeless NZ is a registered charity and sends all donations to its partner, Care for Cambodia, with 100 per cent of donations going to buying school packs for the children whose families cannot afford the mandatory shoes, uniforms, and school supplies for the school year in Cambodia. Each pack costs about $20.
Ms Boom's bare feet have tracked countless kilometres of pavement and rough back-country tracks during the past three-and-a-half years. Last April, she walked the 19.4km Tongariro Crossing without the warmth and comfort of tramping boots.
"That was challenging. Extremely cold. My feet were numb right through," she said.
On May 15 she will begin her 33km barefoot walk from Upper Hutt to Wellington to complete it in nine hours and raise $15,000 in the process.
"It'll be hard, but I'm hoping my feet aren't going to bleed," she said. "Bruising will be the worst thing."