Kenton Lee was not a designer and knew nothing about the fashion industry. He was just a regular guy who saw how kids in Nairobi, Kenya were suffering without shoes: some going barefoot, some in outgrown shoes with the toes cut open, some wearing cardboard scraps on their feet. He saw the problem and wanted to help, and so he came up with an idea.
“Kids without shoes can get infections through cuts and scrapes, and parasites like hookworm and threadworm enter the body through the feet,” Lee said in a video that he published online.
Donated shoes are always welcomed in needy countries, but the biggest problem with donated shoes, Lee observed, is that kids quickly outgrow them and then need to get new donated shoes. Lee came up with an invention to remedy this problem: The Shoe That Grows.
Practical compassion – doing the small things that make a BIG difference. Simple, everyday stuff. Like shoes. What…
The simple, yet ingenious, invention is basically a sandal that is adjustable across several sizes. While some kids can outgrow their shoes in a year, The Shoe That Grows can grow five sizes and lasts five years. From a design standpoint, they were purely functional, not fashionable; Lee wanted a shoe that lasted as long as possible, and he didn’t cut any corners in materials: high-quality leather and compressed rubber on the bottom—very similar to rubber tire. But as far as looks go, Lee was quite happy with how they turned out.
The Shoe That Grows comes in two sizes: small, for ages 4 to 9; and large, for ages 9 to 14.
We are both humbled and excited to be providing the best shoe for kids living in poverty! Thank you for your feedback over the years. #5sizes #LastsForYears #theshoethatgrows #ForTheKids
There are millions of kids without shoes. Inspire change and spring into action! Together we can create a world with #NoShoelessKids
Lee approached shoe development company Proof of Concept in Portland, Oregon, and they got the idea off the ground. Eventually, Lee started his own non-profit organization called Because International and started fundraising. They were able to raise enough money through crowdfunding to produce their first batch of 3,000 shoes, then 5,000. As of 2019, Because International had sent over 200,000 shoes to over 100 countries around the world.
On their website, you can purchase shoes for yourself, but packages are also available for sending them in bulk to countries where children are in need of shoes.
According to Lee, there are 300 million children living in developing countries who don’t have any shoes. Either their families can’t afford them or they live on the streets or in orphanages that don’t have the means to provide them. There are an estimated 2 billion people worldwide who suffer from soil-transmitted diseases, Lee adds.
“We have just been overwhelmed by all the support and publicity,” Lee told Bored Panda in an interview. “This has been amazing. We are a very small organization, but we are growing and excited for the future.”