Alastair Onglingswan, Social Entrepreneur

By Lizbeth Brosnan

Green Soul Shoes is a waste reducing shoe company, aimed at providing shoes for one million underprivileged, shoeless children with their “buy one, give one” policy.

Shoes at Green Soul Shoes are made 100% from recycled rubber from tires. The company also provides local artisans with a source of income and a market in which they can sell their products. This impressive company is managed by Alastair Onglingswan.

Onglingswan shared his story of the idea behind this company during a recent visit to Fordham University in the Bronx.. After many career changes, Alastair was in search for a career in which he felt would lead to a meaningful life. His previous career as an attorney was not satisfying for him. Although Alastair was “successful” in the eyes of society, he did not feel like his work was fulfilling his passion.

Alastair spoke about a visit to a place nicknamed “Smoky Mountain”  in Manila, Philippines. This “mountain” was a shantytown built on top of a large garbage dump. The town was inhabited buy a number of people. The most striking was the number of shoeless children running through the garbage and mud, kicking a soccer ball.

After witnessing a child cut his foot on a dirty, sharp object, Alastair drove to a local store to purchase a pair of shoes for this shoeless child. He noticed during his visit that there was an opportunity for local shoemakers to make and sell shoes made from the piles of rubber on Smoky Mountain. Alastair shared “The opportunity to clean up the world, shoe shoeless children, and connect two stakeholders in the same community was one I could not resist”.

Alastair gave Fordham students three lessons to take away from his talk that would lead them to living a both successful and meaningful life. The first, was to choose a career that is consistent with your passion. “If you know what you are passionate about and follow that path, you will be happy.”  Alastair strongly believes that passion is the only thing that matters. The second, is that failures are important.  Acknowledging failure and learning how to change your approach is extremely important in order to be successful. The third lesson, is that although we cannot control what happens to us, we have full control over the way we react. It is important to not solely focus on the negative things that happen to us because we do not have any control. “What we can control, is how we choose to move forward” Alastair explained. These lessons are what Alastair believes to be the most important to leading a meaningful life.

 

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