“It’s not where you start from – it’s where you run to…”
Viv Kartsounis is an ultra runner and the co-founder and CEO of “Shoes for Planet Earth”; loving called Shooz! Shooz is a Sydney based non-profit association that collects used sports shoes from the local community and gives them, at no cost, to those in need both in Australia and around the world. Running is her passion and her charity is her life!
Viv was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa in 1964. Born a runner she ran competitively throughout her school years. She ran for her university while studying for her Bachelor of Architecture degree in South Africa and then again for Texas A & M University in the USA while studying for her Master of Science in Land Development. She is still running…
Before immigrating to Australia in 2002 she and her family lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for six years, where jungle running became her speciality and where she ran her first marathon.
She has always openly shared her passion for running, establishing running groups both in Malaysia and Australia. In KL she was an active figure in the Pacesetters Athletics Club, Malaysia, and won the Sports Woman of the Year award in 2001.
Her love for running paid off and she was chosen to run overseas for Australia in the 100 kilometre World Championships in 2006, 2007 and 2008. These experiences sealed the bond she had for Australia and she ran proudly for her new country.
Three years ago her running passion found a new direction, and after a visit to South Africa to run the Comrades Marathon (the Ultimate Human Race), Viv and her partner formed “Shoes for Planet Earth.” She had witnessed the poverty first hand and decided to make a difference the only way she knew how - something to do with running.
Shoes for Planet Earth took its first steps and then it started to run...
The shoes are collected from local communities all over Australia - individuals, sports shoe stores, businesses and gyms. Once sorted they are then given back to those in need within the local community - homeless shelters, youth and crises centres, individuals and sporting groups in need of footwear.
The charity has to date delivered over 4000 pairs of shoes to those in need both in Australia, Palm Island, PNG and five African countries, and the number grows as we speak. Shooz also offers weekly volunteer fitness training sessions for troubled youth. Every week they train teenage girls at a Juvenile Justice Centre in Sydney, as well as young men in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program through a Salvation Army initiative.
The “Hope Project” is their next step. A place for troubled youth located in the New South Wales bush where they can feed the chickens, plant vegetables and go running with Viv. This provides them with the opportunity to escape the pressure of life and old habits, and a place to discover themselves.
There are not enough hours in a day to answer all life’s calls, but running keeps Viv fit, happy and healthy so that she can continue to do the work that God has put her on this earth to do.
Viv Kartsounis – putting a smile on people’s feet!