Shoes protect our feet and allow us to safely traverse different terrain, no matter where we’re going. We put them on in the morning and take them off at the end of the day — simple.
Given that they’re an everyday part of our lives, it’s easy to take shoes for granted. Most of us have at least a couple pairs. If we need new shoes, we run to the store or have them delivered to our doorstep with a few clicks. It’s so easy that we don’t even think about how amazing our shoes, or the process of buying them, really are.
But not everyone can afford or access new shoes when they need a pair.
That’s what Kenton Lee, the founder of The Shoe That Grows noticed when he was in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007. There, he observed a child wearing shoes much smaller than her feet. She had cut open the ends of her shoes so her toes could stick out. This experience inspired Lee to develop a shoe that can grow with the child.
A Creative Solution
Lee returned home to Nampa, Idaho, and set to work. He and some friends tried to figure out how they could solve this shoe problem logically. It took about six years to develop a working solution: a durable shoe that can expand up to 5 sizes, giving it an exceptional life span.
As part of the development of The Shoe That Grows, Lee and his team established a nonprofit organization called Because International. This organization was created to put as many shoes on as many kids as possible, all around the world.
Lee’s work didn’t stop with The Shoe That Grows. He and his team also developed a product called the Bednet Buddy, a portable bednet beneath which kids can sleep and be protected from mosquitos that carry life-threatening diseases like malaria. Young children are highly susceptible to malaria, which can cause serious illness and death. Bednets, like the Bednet Buddy, are remarkably effective tools for combating malarial infections.
More Than a Shoe
For employees and collaborators of Because International, caring is about more than just providing shoes or bednets to children around the world — it’s also about giving impoverished communities job opportunities.
They manufacture their products in regions where those products are used the most, namely Ethiopia and Uganda. They also pay their employees a livable wage — something that’s in short supply in these regions.
The accessibility of The Shoe That Grows is also reflected in the price. Every pair of shoes is $20.00, far lower than the average price of a pair of shoes in the U.S. (in 2018, the average price for a pair was $75.00). When someone buys a pair of shoes (or several) as a donation, those shoes are delivered to people who need them. You can also partner with the organization to fundraise and participate in trips to distribute shoes to hard-to-reach areas.
Interestingly, because the organization’s mission is to get shoes to those who need them, they do not sell to consumers directly. Instead, consumers can buy the shoes for personal use on a separate company called GroFive. Part of the revenue from GroFive is donated back to Because International to further its mission.
Making an Impact, One Step at a Time
The Shoe That Grows and Because International have made a remarkable impact in just a few short years. Thanks to incredible support from around the world, the organization has been able to provide shoes to thousands of children. These shoes will last them for years to come. Kids don’t have to worry about outgrowing them, at least not for quite some time.
In a state of poverty, having one less thing to worry about can make a huge difference. It changes a person’s entire outlook and potentially changes their life for the better. In communities where prosperity is limited, this kind of impact can be monumental — and it all comes back to something as simple as a pair of shoes.