An American volunteer in Africa has come up with a unique shoe to help children wear their footwear for longer.
The Shoe that Grows adjusts with the foot and is helping protect children living in poverty.
In Kibera, the largest urban slum in Nairobi, Kenya, children are exposed to a myriad of foot diseases which include tetanus, parasites, fungus and other harmful bacteria. This is because they are unable to afford proper protective footwear to protect their feet from the disease infested slum areas.
Consequently, Because International, a US based Non-governmental organization conceptualized an adjustable shoe design that promises to solve this problem.
The concept began when Kenton Lee, an American volunteer in Africa, came across a child whose toes were sticking out of his worn out shoes. This prompted him to raise funds to begin manufacturing a durable and affordable shoe to mitigate the problem in Kenya's slums.
The project's first batch was manufactured in China, but currently production efforts are being carried out in Ethiopia. This is because Ethiopia has a rich source of leather and rubber, thus making it more cost efficient as a production destination for the course. Moreover, the efforts to move production of the shoes to Ethiopia has created employment opportunities for the locals, hence improving their standards of living.
So far, the project has been deemed a great success:
"I think the impact has been great since once a kid gets the Shoe that Grows," says Japheth Opondo, Because International Kenya program coordinator.
"And as you can see sometimes when they walk bare foot they are prone to many things like sharp objects on the ground, there are some diseases that can go through the feet. So with the shoes when we provide it, the impact is great because it really helps in those areas."
Because International has designed its distribution network to target schools with an aim of reaching the largest number of children possible.
Beneficiaries of the program have warmly embraced the initiative and acknowledge the fact that it has made their lives much better.
"When I am playing football the foot does not come out of the shoe and also the sole does not come out and that is the reason why I love it very much," says Arnold Otieno, a pupil at one of the local primary schools.
At a cost of 15 US dollars, Because International sells the shoes to donors who then donate them to would be beneficiaries at no fee.
Moreover, the shoes can be distributed on behalf of the donors by Because International after they make a purchase. So far, distribution efforts have been successful in Uganda, Kenya, India and Haiti.
Made of leather and rubber, the shoe is designed with the interest of a child in mind as it is aesthetically appealing and durable.
According to Dr Sally Kariuki, a podiatrist based in Nairobi, Kenya, the shoe is practical and is designed to stand the test of time.
"If we look at it the materials are quite good, the materials that have been used. We have a rubber sole which is what we recommend for shoes and especially for children because they give some cushioning to the foot. It is also made from leather, we also recommend upper leathers because they help the feet breathe and they do not irritate the foot," she says.
Parents living in the slum are very grateful for the shoe. Some claim that their children have kept the shoe for over three years with no need to buy another pair.
"When he was given the shoes, from that time he was given the shoes, I have not bought slippers, because they are long lasting. Secondly they are easy to wash and thirdly the child does not dirtify himself when he is playing with the shoes and they are comfortable when he moves around with the shoes outside," says parent Mildred Achieng'.
According to the United Nations Children's Fund, 42 per cent of the Kenyan population live below the poverty line and this makes it difficult for them to afford even basic commodities.
The Shoe that Grows is going some way towards helping. Designed for children between the ages of 5-15 years it can have a lifespan of up to 5 years.