Job Opportunities in the Poorest Nations
Creating job opportunities in the poorest nations of the world is key to development while also being a significant challenge for the world. With unemployment ranging as high as over 20% in some low-income and developing countries – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest unemployment recorded – companies and businesses around the world have been striving to increase human capital through working locally and providing employment opportunities onsite. Here is a list of four businesses creating jobs in the world’s poorest nations.

Because International

With its commitment to using production as a means of breaking “the negative cycle of poverty by creating opportunity for real, measurable, long-term economic growth,” Because International’s business model centers around the idea of aiding entrepreneurs through production. Its main product, The Shoe That Grows, is a long-lasting, expandable shoe designed for children in low-income countries. The company hires in areas that need the product the most. Local production helps sustainability and other benefits, from reduced carbon footprint and lower shipping costs to job creation.

The company has thus far created jobs on two production sites. The Umoja Company site in Kenya works on The Shoe That Grows for local markets. The Anbessa Shoe Share company, in Ethiopia, supplies shoes for international brands such as J.Crew and D.S.W. Additionally, Because International runs the Pursuit Incubator, an online support program where entrepreneurs living in poverty can gain relevant training and coaching, as well as get funding and develop their network. The Incubator has so far helped several start-ups based in Africa. Among them are Reform Africa, which makes bags from recycled plastic, Our Roots Africa, which produces plant-based and biodegradable straws and SoaPen, which provides hand soap pens for kids in low-hygiene areas.


A Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker that allows food to cook for up to 12 hours without any additional heating. The product preserves heat and aids the cooking process. It is an easy-to-use foam insulated bag that wraps around cooking pans. This way of slow-cooking minimizes health issues by obviating the use of wood, charcoal and fuels in cooking. This common way of cooking in low-income areas is a health risk. The product also saves 13,000 hours per year. Because of this, women have more time to develop other skills. This provides an opportunity for women and girls to increase their earning potential and autonomy. As Kirsten Fenton, Wonderbag’s representative, told The Borgen Project, “Communities and their people lie at the heart of Wonderbag’s purpose.”

The company works with partnering factories and sewing collectives to provide local women with paid employment opportunities. Through organized training, teaching and guidance, Wonderbag has created community employment in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and soon Brazil. “These employment projects have been run with the support of co-operatives… [and] single mothers manufacturing Wonderbags from their home.”


MakaPads is an Uganda-based business producing naturally absorbent and biodegradable sanitary pads from local papyrus and paper waste. Its aim is to reduce period poverty and make sanitary products widely available for women and girls in developing countries. Its  motto is “Let’s ensure every girl has access to and can afford to buy sanitary pads.”

The company currently operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Uganda and Sierra Leone. The average income in these countries is less than $1.25/month, yet a packet of period pads costs twice that. This inequity pushes women to use riskier products such as cloth rags, waste paper or banana leaves.

MakaPads provides training to those who wish to produce the pads themselves. CEO Nnassuuna Mirembe told The Borgen Project, “MakaPads are a Menstrual Hygiene Management product that is proudly made by over 90% women using resources from within the communities.”

The company has so far taught and employed over 200 women and men. “Maka also means home, which means several girls and women can stay at home, take care of the house chores but also make portions of the sanitary pads which they sell to the company and are paid a unit rate for each product,” explained Mirembe. This is possible due to the use of materials grown locally. These materials are easily and widely available, allowing the trained manufacturers to work from their homes and not have to bear any additional income.

One Dollar Glasses

One Dollar Glasses is a pioneering organization that produces optical glasses for those in need. The glasses are a revolutionary design. A single steel wire is the only necessary material. Additionally, the manufacturing process does not require any electricity, involves only one bending machine and costs $1 per pair. Considering how easy and accessible the production process is, the organization has managed to create more than 200 jobs in eight operating countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar and Peru – through financing relevant training and providing bending machines to those seeking employment. One Dollar Glasses also organizes its Best Spherical Correction Training to help trainees learn how to conduct eye tests and adjust glasses on patients.

These four companies have found innovative ways to create job opportunities in the poorest nations. They use sustainable techniques and are contributing to ending global poverty. Providing job opportunities in the poorest nations uplifts the entirety of the global economy. To do so in a sustainable, futuristic way is truly an accomplishment for these brands.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

Because International is Aiding Children
There is an invention that is changing the lives of millions living in poverty around the world. A leather sandal, called The Shoe That Grows, has been making a big difference for children living without shoes that properly fit them. Kenton Lee, a pastor and founder of the nonprofit organization Because International, designed the shoe. He came up with the idea during a six-month stay in Kenya. He originated this new brand of footwear that has benefited those who have outgrown their previous pairs of shoes. Because International is aiding children in developing countries that live without proper-sized shoes and are vulnerable to serious injuries and parasites.

More than 300 children from poor families are in need of a pair of properly fitting and long-lasting shoes. Using materials around his house, Lee used the plastic part of a baseball cap to have a makeshift expanding shoe. He also used tacks and soft foam to create pegs, allowing the shoe to expand.

“The design process was interesting because I am not a designer, and I knew nothing about shoes,” Lee told Bored Panda. “I was just a normal guy with an idea.”

Helminth Infections

More than 225,000 pairs of adjustable sandals are distributed to more than 100 countries around the world. The previous lack of this resource has prevented kids from attending school daily and staying healthy. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide have suffered from soil-transmitted helminth infections, in which parasitic worms transmitted by eggs pass through the feces of those infected by the disease. The adult worms live in the intestines where they produce eggs every day. Helminth infections also weaken an individual’s nutritional status by feeding on host tissues including blood which leads to a loss of protein and iron. In addition to helminth infections, hookworms, which are also parasitic, cause intestinal blood loss that results in anemia.

As for the organization’s long-term goals, it plans on continuing distribution to poor countries. This provides an economic improvement, in which job creation appears, low shipping for merchants, decreased carbon footprinting and overall innovation of footwear that will increase economic growth while fighting poverty.

The Bednet Buddy

Because International is also aiding children through its invention to protect kids vulnerable to mosquitoes. The Bednet Buddy is also available on its official website; a pop-up net lined with long-lasting insecticides, which are synthetic substances for killing insects. The Bednet Buddy has the guarentee to protect children aged 5 and under from mosquito bites while sleeping. Lee, who also invented this protective kit, came up with the idea during the same visit to Kenya. He visited an orphanage where children were sleeping without bedding or a roof over their heads during the night, leaving them more vulnerable for mosquito bites, increasing the chance of catching malaria.

The organization has made about 1,000 nets and sent 700 to the west-central region of Africa for testing, so the organization has already manufactured the product and some have already used it. Because International is still working toward making improvements to the product that it has yet to reveal.


Because International also has a sister company for commercial use called GroFive. Because International primarily owns GroFive and is a small-time player in the American footwear industry. Where parents typically run out to buy their children more pairs of shoes, costing them hundreds of dollars, the company decided to use the idea of The Shoe That Grows for American consumers. The key is to sell the product domestically where parents can purchase this type of shoe for a low price instead of buying multiple pairs for higher prices. GroFive sells its expanded sandals, or “expandals,” for both kids and adults at $39.95 a pair.

Pursuit Incubator

In addition, Because International has also developed a program for struggling entrepreneurs to take their new ideas to the next level. Known as the Pursuit Incubator, Because International offers training to get new businesses off the ground and to mobilize them to their target audience. It even gives guidance and funding that help support these new entrepreneurs as they embark on growing their businesses.

Overall, Because International is aiding children through its consistency in making products and services that can help serve those in need. In addition to The Shoe That Grows, it is capable of making more products. It can market these for use in underprivileged and developed nations alike. Finally, it provides services to help others with their own products.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

The Shoe That GrowsThey say that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, and they are not wrong. Kids grow quicker than any parent can keep up with, especially those who cannot afford to properly accommodate these rapid changes. Children between the ages of one and six will grow out of their shoes every three to four months. This means that a child could go through 18 pairs of shoes within the first six years of his or her life.

Families living in extreme poverty cannot afford to pay for this many pairs of shoes for their children. While donated shoes may provide a temporary fix, kids will continue to grow and these shoes will soon be rendered unusable. The only true solution to this problem would be a magical pair of shoes that grows at the same rate as a child. The Shoe That Grows has turned this seemingly impossible product into a reality, and in turn, has positively impacted the lives of thousands of children around the world.

Why The World Needs Shoes

With hunger, life-threatening infectious diseases, and a slew of other issues to worry about, one wouldn’t assume that shoes would fall at the top of the list of things that impoverished families need. However, shoes are far more important than they seem. Over 1.5 billion people around the globe are affected by soil-transmitted diseases. Some of the most dangerous threats lurking in the soil are parasites such as hookworm and ringworm that affect more than 880 million children worldwide.

Children without shoes or with shoes that do not fit correctly live at a much higher risk of contracting these diseases and parasites, not to mention cuts, bruises, blisters and other injuries. When children are sick they are prevented from attending school, which could have a long-term effect.

From Concept to Reality

Kenton Lee was traveling in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007 when he noticed the troublesome state of many children’s feet. All around him, children ran barefoot. One little girl, in particular, stuck out to him: she wore a white dress and shoes that were several sizes too small for her.

It was this experience that eventually led Lee to start a nonprofit in 2009 called Because International. The organization is focused on finding innovative solutions to the problems caused by global poverty. Soon after its inception, Because International launched its first project, The Shoe That Grows. Since then, the organization has distributed over 225,000 ‘growing’ shoes across the world.

If The Shoe Fits…

The Shoe That Grows expands in three places: at the front, sides and back of the foot. This allows the shoe to grow five sizes larger than its smallest setting. The shoes are also highly durable: with a strong rubber sole and a tough leather body, they are designed to withstand years of use. Through its partnership with various organizations around the globe, Because International has been able to deliver The Shoe That Grows to the areas that need them most.

The organization also offers individuals an annual opportunity to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ with their Wear-A-Pair fundraising event. After signing up for the event, participants receive fundraising kits along with a pair of The Shoe That Grows. Fundraisers are encouraged to wear the shoes from May 6-19 in order to raise awareness about global poverty and the innovative solutions that continue to work towards ending it.

This innovation highlights a daily struggle for many living in poverty, something that most people in developed countries are unaware of. With this initial project, Because International may be ready to launch many more innovations to help alleviate global poverty.

– Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

The Shoe That Grows
Sometimes, the simplest invention can change millions of lives. That’s the goal of The Shoe That Grows, a sandal invented by Kenton Lee. These shoes can adjust its size, allowing children in impoverished nations to grow up without having to go barefoot. The shoes, which come in catch-all Small and Large sizes, can grow five sizes and last at least 5 years.

The Power of a Pair of Shoes

According to The Shoe That Grows, “There are over 300 million children who do not have shoes. And countless more with shoes that do not fit.” Children without shoes are susceptible to injuries and parasites that infect humans through our feet. Rachel Garton of Buckner International Shoes for Orphan Souls says, “Just by putting a pair of shoes on a child, we can increase their health by 50 percent.”

From physical improvement to being able to participate in a society, shoes can improve:

  • Quality of life
  • Prevent injury of disease
  • Help with healing for those with chronic foot conditions
  • Offer support for inadequate arches or excess pronation
  • Express one’s self
  • Enable a person to work in hazardous conditions
  • Help land that coveted job.

Over 1.5 billion people suffer from soil-transmitted diseases worldwide. Most notable in the susceptibility are the impoverished children who simply cannot afford shoes. Without shoes, children are especially vulnerable to soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause illness and even death.

Dangers of Bare Feet

Improper sanitization along with the lack of foot protection can lead to parasitic worms being able to bore itself into a foot in a corkscrew-like manner. Severe illness would then follow after a hookworm infection with anemia being the biggest health concern.

While the hookworm epidemic is no longer a concern in the U.S. today, the need for proper footwear is still critical as a way of reducing the risk of certain parasitic diseases and foot infections in third world countries.

According to the Global Partnership for Education, an estimated 69 million primary-school-age boys and girls are not in school. This is due to a varying range of variables from poverty to disease. These factors however go hand-in-hand when children do not have the financial capabilities to afford proper footwear to protect their feet from life-hindering diseases.

Children who get sick miss school, can’t help their families and ultimately, suffer needlessly. Moreover, many countries require school uniforms which definitely include shoes, and since children’s feet grow so quickly, they often outgrow donated shoes within a year, leaving them once again exposed to illness and disease.

Shoes and Foot Development

Shoes not only help our feet to heal but can also aid in support and stability of our foot. Not all feet are perfect, so properly fitting shoes can help align your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back to correct gait and improve posture. It is important to also note that poorly-fitted shoes can have a negative impact on your foot health, but accounting for the foot length and width can help prevent any foot development disorders.

Additionally, growth spurts in children are rapid so proper and regular foot measurements are important; replacement of worn-out shoes is necessary to maintain optimal foot conditions and protection for your feet.

In addition, without supportive shoes, unnecessary impact and stress on areas of the feet and knees not made for shock absorption/pressure can eventually lead to increased back, knee and foot pain.

Small to Large: Sizes and Impact

Through his innovation of The Shoe That Grows, Kenton Lee has seen how small things have the power to make a big impact. Since its beginning, The Shoe That Grows has distributed over 120,000 pairs in 91 countries.

Through its parent charity organization, Because International, The Shoe That Grows works with nonprofits, churches, individuals and organizations serving kids in need. The business covers the cost of the shoes through donations and fundraisers, and after shoes are then packed and sent to groups before they travel.

Lee now tells his story to audiences who are eager to make a difference at home, work, and in their local and global communities. He not only inspires others through his speeches, but he lives out practical compassion everyday through his full-time work with his nonprofit organization. Lee serves as a model and inspiration for us all.

– Richard Zarrilli, Jr.
Photo: Flickr

The Shoe That Grows - TBP
Idaho native Kenton Lee’s “The Shoe That Grows” has seen quite a bit of media frenzy for its fascinating innovation. An idea that has been in the making since 2007, the unique invention could serve as the answer to those in developing regions who lack shoes.

Following his 2007 graduation from Northwest Nazarene University, aspiring philanthropist Kenton Lee embarked on monthly mission trips from Ecuador to Kenya. What would soon catch his attention was a stop at a Kenyan orphanage, where over 140 children with parents who died from AIDS resided.

While walking to a church, the fresh graduate spotted a 6-year-old girl wearing a white dress and a pair of shoes that were “four- or five-sizes too small.” They were so undersized that holes were made for the girl’s toes to hang out. Lee was also astonished by the unsanitary conditions within the orphanage, including a lack of clean water and on-and-off electricity.

Following the sighting, Lee spoke with the director of the orphanage to seek further information as to why the young girl and others lacked durable footwear. The director disclosed to Lee that shipments of shoe donations were made a year prior, but because those in need happen to be kids, they easily outgrow the shoes as they age. The optimistic designer later found that over 300 million children in developing countries lack shoes, resulting in the contraction of soil-transmitted diseases such as threadworms and Guinea worms.

Upon returning to the United States, Lee sparked an idea that could maintain comfortable footwear to poverty-stricken children in developing regions. That idea was The Shoe That Grows, but Lee knew his plan would not come to light if he did not seek help from a supportive team of volunteers to push his idea into effective force.

The year 2009 would mark Kenton Lee’s founding of Because International, a nonprofit organization to help propel the innovative shoe idea into the media. Following backfire from failed efforts to get big-name shoe companies like Nike onboard, Lee and voluntary members partnered with shoe development company Proof of Concept to pull the “growing shoe” design together.

Lee would explain in an interview with Buzzfeed that the base of the creation is a sandal made with compressed rubber material similar to tires. It was also indicated that the sandal could last up to 10 years with the help of durable leather and heavy-duty buckles.

The optimistic contributor later added in 2011 that the shoe could grow from a size 5 to a size 12, enabling users to adjust their shoe as their feet grow.

In 2012, Kenton Lee shared that, because Proof of Concept undergoes a 16-week shoemaking process, funding support would be urgently needed. Hence, in October 2012, Lee and Because International launched a two-week fundraising campaign via Crowdrise to meet a desired goal of $4,000 in order to produce a prototype of the innovative shoe. When enough money was raised, Lee and his wife traveled back to Kenya to test out 100 prototypes in four schools. Much to his liking, the disadvantaged schoolchildren “loved them,” and with a few tweaks, Lee had the final product ready in 2014.

In October 2014, Idaho news station KTVB was among the first to get a glance of the finished product, and they later disclosed on their official website that each pair would be sold for $10. The following year, British publication Daily Mail noted that the sandal-based wear had increased by $30. However, it also said that if 100 pairs were purchased, the price would be reduced to $12.

Alternately, Because International launched a digital page requesting willing donors to contribute $15 to fill duffle bags with 50 pairs of shoes each. Once filled, each bag is sent off to its destination to aid shoeless people.

While the growing shoe has accumulated praise, a few critics have remained skeptical of its potential performance, arguing that the product will fail like previous similar ideas attempted by other shoemakers. For example, created in 2002, the company INCHworm designed footwear that retained an accordion-like segment that could expand three sizes. However, the product immediately faced criticism when stockers failed to understand its purpose due to the shoe “only filling one niche,” and only serving as a “casual slip-on,” rather than being marketed as a sneaker or a dress shoe. Moreover, its price of over $45 did not sit well with consumers, which resulted in American disinterest and limited production in the United Kingdom.

By a stark contrast, Kenton Lee’s invention is not strictly designed for American sale, but rather for a wider release overseas for the betterment of underprivileged kids. With the global sale in perspective, individuals like Jacksonville State University professor Pam Hill hope the product is not “just limited to tropical or sub-tropical regions,” but is also geared toward children in “inclement [or] snowy” regions who lack the same essentials.

Some have been weary of the product’s production in China, where they hope the procession units will not add any unnecessary material that could pose as a harmful threat to the children. Lee, however, has noted that the factories have been long proponents of Proof of Concept.

With five nonprofit establishments backing the product, alongside a successful $50,000 crowdfunding campaign, 2,500 units have been sold in disadvantaged regions from Colombia and Peru to Kenya and Haiti. The Shoe That Grows is ready to make an impact. But when success is ultimately achieved, what will be next on Lee’s list?

Lee and Because International plan to produce a second project, tentatively titled “A Better Bed-net,” which will supply bedding to orphaned kids in mosquito-infested areas. The bedding is to be equipped with netting that will trap disease-carrying mosquitoes that try to make their way into orphan shelters. For now, Kenton Lee and his supportive network are carefully taking one step at a time to ensure that they are truly living up to their motto: “Making things better by making better things.”

– Jefferson Varner IV

Sources: The Shoe That Grows 1, The Shoe That Grows 2, OregonLive, Buzzfeed, Smithsonian, KTBV, Youtube 1, Daily Mail Online 1, Daily Mail Online 2, Youtube 2, CNN Money, The Cultureist, AOL Money UK, Idaho Entrepreneurs
Photo: Daily Mail

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,, The Shoe That Grows
Photo: Because International