how it all started
After two decades in the UK and Japanese fashion industry, Solemen’s Founder, Robert Epstone, following ten years in Shanghai arrived in Bali in 2009 intending to relax in retirement. After being involved in a 15-month project building wells in East Sumba for the Rotary Club of Bali Seminyak, he made the decision to start his own NGO and give back to the island he has chosen to retire in.
Robert pledged to go barefoot until he had raised $1 million for his foundation (a milestone reached several years ago), and Yayasan Solemen Indonesia was born.
In 2011 he completed his first barefoot walk of 535km around Bali, stopping at various villages to conduct workshops and medical health checks where most of the villages had never seen a doctor. His second barefoot walk in 2012 saw him operated on a school desk for a serious foot injury and ended with Robert completing the walk despite being on crutches. What initially was a decision driven by empathy for those who couldn’t afford to wear shoes, became a way to establish credibility for himself as someone with integrity, as an honest, reliable, and passionate person people could trust to lead a charity.