When charity worker Kenton Lee was working in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007, he noticed that many children in the impoverished region were wearing shoes that were too small for their feet or no shoes at all. So he came up with an idea for a sandal that would adjust and expand, allowing for a longer wear period.
“Sometimes, [kids] receive donations of shoes, but they’re kids — their feet grow. So they outgrow donated shoes within a year,” said Lee, noting that there are 300 million children worldwide who do not own shoes.
With his nonprofit organization, Because International, Lee developed The Shoe That Grows, which he distributes to children in orphanages in Africa and elsewhere.
The patented design, created in collaboration with Gary Pitman, a former Nike and Adidas designer, incorporates adjustable leather buckles at the heel and straps across the arch and toes, allowing the shoe to expand by five sizes — lasting a child as long as five years. And a compressed rubber sole protects kids’ feet from common soil-transmitted diseases and parasites such as hookworm.
Because International’s goal is to eventually provide shoes to all of the 300 million children without shoes — and it’s well on its way.
To help fund his project, Lee turned to Crowdrise.com. Since his most recent request for donations went live last week, more than $80,000 has been raised, smashing past his initial goal of $50,000.
Lee said he’s overwhelmed by the response. “I’ve never been more humbled in my life to see so many people wanting to join our effort and help spread the word,” he said in a video message. “This means so much to kids around the world.”