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According to the World Health Organization, about 300,000 people are infected with parasitic worms around the world. Between 10,000 and 135,000 of them die each year due to these parasites. These deaths could have been prevented with something as simple as adequate footwear.

Many people who live in poverty do not have access to adequate shoes that fit and have no holes in the sole. This is dangerous. Sanitation in poverty-stricken areas is not reliable, and it is not uncommon for children to go barefoot almost all the time in areas where sharp objects and human waste are on the ground. Without shoes, exposure to human waste can lead to parasitic worm infestations that come with a host of side-effects, “…including abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood and protein loss, rectal prolapse, and physical and cognitive growth retardation,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kenton Lee, a designer, inventor and reverend, wants to make these illnesses a thing of the past. He has collaborated with the company, Proof of Concept, to design a simple way to keep children from contracting soil-borne illnesses. The project, launched by charity, Because International, has partnered with organizations in Ecuador, Haiti, Ghana and Kenya to bring his solution to the children who need it most.

The Shoe That Grows is an inexpensive, durable sandal that can expand up to five sizes. Made from compressed rubber, leather and common metal snaps, the shoe comes in two sizes, large and small. The small shoe lasts from kindergarten to fourth grade, and the large lasts from fourth to about ninth grade. The materials are easy to repair and replace, even in countries with few resources. Because they are also very light, it is easy to transport large shipments of the shoes wherever they need to go. A donation of 50 pairs of shoes can fit into a duffel bag and be treated as a carry-on item for an airplane flight.

While an individual pair of shoes costs about $30 to make, larger orders bring the price down to $12 or even $10 each.

The project’s website has successfully distributed hundreds of shoes through its “Fill a Duffle” campaign. For $10 a pair, a duffel bag is filled with about 50 pairs of shoes. Once full, the duffel is sent to areas in need, and donors can even choose the areas they want their donation to reach.

The shoes are sold out right now, but will be available to donate and to buy in America again come July.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: World.Mic, In Habitat, Geek.com, The Shoe That Grows
Photo: Because International