I’m the founder of Sal’s Shoes, a charity that collects and distributes children’s pre-loved shoes to children in need around the world. Sal’s Shoes came about when, not long after my son Sal (now aged five) had started walking, I found myself with a bag full of his outgrown, but not outworn, shoes and was unable to find an organisation that could tell me where exactly in the world they’d go if I donated them to charity. In the two and half years since we’ve been going we have collected over 55,000 pairs of shoes and found them new feet in 30 countries around the world, including the UK.

I never really meant to start Sal’s Shoes, but it has snowballed and now I find myself being good at something I never particularly set out to be. I’m supported by a small army of volunteers and by growing organically (there’s never been a master plan, we just roll with what comes our way), we’ve thankfully been able to maximise all the opportunities that have come our way. I think it’s working because the concept is simple – we’re asking people for something that their kids have outgrown, yet still have so much life in them. Kids that donate understand what we’re about too as we endeavour to get photographs of our shoe distributions, and when a child here recognises their shoes on the feet of their new owner, sometimes thousands of miles away, I think they realise the potential they have to make a real difference in another person’s life. After all, doing good, feels good.

I never really meant to start Sal’s Shoes, but it has snowballed and now I find myself being good at something I never particularly set out to be

I live with my husband Carlo, my lovable step-monsters Luke, 19, and Emilia, 17 (they share their time between us and their mum), our son Sal, 5, and our daughter Clemie, 3, not forgetting Otis, our faithful Beagle. As well as running Sal’s Shoes I work part-time for Carlo who is a property developer. I work two days a week in my husband’s office which allows me to get my head down uninterrupted, and Sal’s Shoes is predominantly run from my phone – emails, phone calls, website updates, Facebook posts, twitter feed and so on, as and when I make time, usually when I’m sitting outside the school gates, or during Clemie’s afternoon nap, or whilst walking the dog.

We live in Surrey where there is plenty of space for cycling, running and scooting so we get out a lot. I like exploring and having adventures with the kids. I believe that life is about experiences and creating memories for children that they’ll retain forever, whether we’re climbing old bunkers in the Surrey countryside, or walking through a small town in the Atacama desert. I’m definitely a throw open the doors and chuck them outside kind of person. On rainy days once the puddles have been exhausted it’s all about messy play, I’m a huge fan! Give me some glue, tissue paper, glitter and an old cereal box and we’re in our element. Although land us with a stormy day and a sofa and we’ll all happily bed down for a marathon film watching session.

I’m definitely a throw open the doors and chuck the kids outside kind of person

We lucked out as we’re the parents of sleepers (you either get them or you don’t) so we feel pretty fortunate. Lights are off and bedroom doors are closed by 7pm in the evening and they’re unlikely to stir for the following 12-14 hours. On weekdays a 7am rise means I’m showered, dressed, the beds are made, the kids are clothed and fed, and we’re in the car by 8am for the school run. Sal is about to go into Year 2 at school and Clemie currently spends two long days in nursery. Zoe, our brilliant nanny works a day and a half with us during term time and two days a week during the school holidays, and one of the mums at school does a weekly drop off at school in the mornings which allows me an early start if I need. Outside of working and doing the school run, the week is full of errands, play dates and catching up with friends. 

I do really believe there is such a thing as work-life balance, absolutely, it just takes a bit of time to get it right. And it’s funny, since becoming a mum I’ve learnt that actually kids fit into your life not the other way round, and also I’ve learnt that I have a lot more patience than I thought, and that kids are not irrational adults, they’re just kids.

For more about CJ and her work with Sal’s Shoes check out http://www.salsshoes.com/

More in Features

Writers Bloc #1 Val McDermid

By , 25th September 2018
Features, Regulars
From imposter syndrome to plotting, in a new series for Marie Claire authors give me chapter and verse on how the writing process works for them - starting with multi award-winning crime writer Val McDermid, who has written 32 books in as many years