Because International is an organization focused on leveraging the positive cycle of innovation to combat the negative cycle of poverty.
It all started with a shoe. In 2007, founder Kenton Lee lived and worked in a small orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. One day Kenton noticed a little girl who had cut open the front of her shoes to let her toes stick out. Seeing her need, he had an idea: “What if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand so kids always had a pair of shoes that fit?” When he returned to his Idaho hometown, he made several prototypes with the help of friends, and The Shoe That Grows was born — a shoe that expands through five sizes. As a result, children can go for years without having to replace their shoes.
Kenton started the nonprofit organization Because International to get The Shoe That Grows to as many kids as possible, each of whom are in desperate need of footwear to protect their feet:
- In Uganda Because International met Patrick, a 12-year-old boy whose parents had left him with his grandmother. She worked hard to support him and thirteen of his cousins by selling sponges, but struggled to make ends meet. Patrick was given a pair of The Shoe That Grows — his very first pair of shoes. With the help of Because International and their partners, Patrick is now in school now and learning trade skills during the holidays to help support his family.
- Ludi, a 12-year-old girl in Haiti, had a lifelong dream be a teacher when she grew up. But because her school is five miles away and shoes are required to attend, this dream seemed impossible to achieve. Some years, Ludi had shoes and could go. Other years, she didn’t. Everything changed when she received a pair of The Shoe That Grows through Because International. Now Ludi always has a pair of shoes that fit, and can regularly attend school to pursue her dreams.
Since the launch of The Show That Grows, Because International’s mission has broadened to provide other resources to promote the health and education of children all over the world; in other words, to leverage innovation to make things better. They focus their efforts in three unique ways: Products, Production and Pursuits.
Products: Besides The Shoe, Because International has also developed the Bednet Buddy, a free-standing pop-up tent that can be used anywhere to protect kids ages 0-5 from mosquitoes and malaria. It’s a solution for families and children whose lifestyle doesn’t fit with a traditional bednet. They are also developing a commercial version of their shoe, called Expandals, to further increase their reach and funds.
Production: A priority for Because International is to manufacture their products where jobs and income are needed most. They are currently producing in Ethiopia and plan to manufacture in Kenya and Haiti by the end of 2019. In Ethiopia, each production run of 10,000 pairs of shoes enables 30 full-time jobs for 4 months.
Pursuit: This program focuses on mentoring, training and funding other entrepreneurs with great ideas to fight poverty.
Through each of these endeavors, Because International furthers their commitment to beating poverty through innovation.