Kenton Lee is the brain behind the innovative new shoe. He was working at a home for 140 HIV/AIDS orphans at a children's home in Nairobi when he saw that none of the children had shoes that fit. He was concerned that not only did this mean that children developed painful sores and blisters on their feet, but that this put them at risk from picking up infections.
He also saw how some children who had received shoes donated by charities, would cut the toes out of the shoes in order to continue wearing them long after they had grown out of them, and he realised these children needed a shoe that grows with them.
He came up with The Shoe That Grows, made of straps that snap together with poppers, and can therefore be adjusted to gradually get wider and longer as the foot grows. The shoe can be increased by five sizes, and is made from leather and compressed rubber - with no complicated parts that are likely to break - so it is designed to last five years.
Each pair costs $10, and is funded entirely by donations. He set up a non-profit organisation called Because International, dedicated to what they call 'practical compassion'. They produced a first batch of 100 shoes, which were distributed in Ecuador, Haiti, Ghana and Kenya. The team spent a lot of time developing partnerships with local groups who distributed the shoes and monitored how they stood up to the demands of daily life.
They recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 in order to make and distribute another 5,000 pairs of the shoes. The response has been overwhelming.
It has smashed its $50,000 target, and money is continuing to pour in. At the moment the total stands at just under $70,000, and Lee commented on the site: "I cannot believe it. We are almost up to $70,000! I am going to bed - and I wonder when I wake up if we will be over the hump? Crazy!!"
Comments from those who have donated reveal that most of them are just impressed with a simple idea that will make such an enormous difference to the lives of children living in poverty. One commented: "I was in Nairobi many years ago and was disturbed by the amount of children in poverty. Sometimes it's easy to think the problem is bigger than you. Bravo to you!"
Another said: "I travelled to Uganda in 2006 and was terribly saddened by the scars the commuter kids had from walking up to 5 miles one way for nightly shelter. This is such a cool idea! Thanks for all you are doing!" While another added that she was donating because reading this story made her embarrassed about all the shoes she has sitting in her wardrobe.
The company has an incredibly ambitious aim: to provide shoes for the 300 million children who do not have shoes, and the countless more who don't have shoes that fit, so they will continue to raise money and aim for a larger batch of shoes.
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