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Image: Children holding pairs of The Shoe that Grows

Solving Big Problems with Simple Solutions: Practical Compassion and The Shoe That Grows

Have you ever thought about the footprint you will leave behind?

When we talk about the “big problems” in the world, footwear hardly ever makes the top of the list in most people’s minds. Yet, for kids all around the world, lacking a pair of shoes can impact their ability to get an education and lead a healthy and happy life. Not only are shoes very often an expensive investment, as parents know, children tend to grow out of them rapidly.

So, what is there to be done?

Fortunately, we live in an era of innovators who are driven not by profit, but by a desire to make our world better.

Today, we are introducing you to an amazing project called The Shoe That Growsa remarkably innovative new type footwear that grows as the kids do! The shoe is the brainchild of Kenton Lee, founder of Because Internationalan organization dedicated to the idea of changing the world through “practical compassion”.

After traveling to Nairobi, Kenya, and working at a small orphanage, Kenton saw a child with ill-fitting shoes and cuts on her feet. He used his innovative mind to ask the question, what if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand its size?

In the realm of humanitarian aid, shoes are often an overlooked necessity. 1 For children and adults in Africa who don’t have proper footwear, the chance of Malaria, parasites, and worms are far higher, and in some cases can be fatal. 2 Over 1.5 Billion people suffer from soil transmitted diseases worldwide. 3 And even when children are provided with shoes to keep them healthy, they grow out of them almost immediately.

Upon his visit and seeing this problem first hand, Kenton, the son of a plumber, decided he had to do something. And thus, the first pair of “Expandals” was born. With a series of adjustable straps, the shoes can grow 5 sizes and last for years.

Children who get sick miss school, can’t help their families, and suffer needlessly. 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. The Shoe That Grows can change that. 


Kenton Lee and our founder, Dr. Lynda, have become great friends, talking regularly and collaborating on ways to help other great projects get the momentum they deserve. Kenton is an amazing person, always thinking about “giving back”.

Here is a great introduction from CBS Evening News to The Shoe That Grows and how this ingenious idea came to be!

Via: CBS Evening News 5

Brilliant, right?

First, let’s take a moment to acknowledge how incredible it is that we share this planet with people like Kenton Lee and those he worked with to develop The Shoe That Grows. Despite the prevailing messages on the news, the world is filled with remarkable thought leaders and innovators working tirelessly and proving it’s still an amazing world.

So, how do you become somebody who changes the world for thousands, even millions of people?

Don’t you need a fancy background? A large team? Major investors?

Why don’t we let Kenton tell you his story…

Via: TEDx Talks 6

Real people change the world!

It’s so important to have people like Kenton who, see a need, want to respond, and just do.

As the demand for Kenton’s invention grew in Africa, so did the demand back home in the United States. Individuals and families wanted to support the mission and buy pairs of Expandals for their own children. While hesitant to commercialize the idea at first, eventually Kenton and his business partner (and best friend since second grade) Andrew were convinced that selling the shoes would allow them to expand their mission and provide even more pairs of shoes to children in poverty around the world.

It’s easy to forget that so many people who completely change the world didn’t start as experts. They didn’t start as millionaires. They started as—and still are—real people, often feeling completely unprepared and inexperienced for the mission they have taken on.

Kenton is a longtime friend of the Goodness Exchange, and you can learn more about his amazing story and work on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast, or from one of our recent events! (Note: Events and recordings are only available to Premium Goodness Exchange members. Learn more about membership here!)

Small Things that Make a Big Difference; The Shoe that Grow with Kenton Lee (Episode #08)

I often say Thought Leaders provide out of the box solutions to everyday problems. Today’s thought leader, Kenton Lee, is a speaker and the Founder of Because International, an organization that provides growing shoes to children in need. After traveling to Nairobi, working at a small orphanage, he saw a child with ill-fitting shoes and cuts on her feet. He used his innovative mind to ask the question, what if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand its size? Thus, Because International was born with the mission to help those in need, and what started as a small business began a worldwide movement.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast
The Power of Small Things: The Story of The Shoe That Grows with Kenton Lee

After starting nonprofit The Shoe That Grows and giving footwear that grows as they do to children in need around the world, Kenton Lee and his partner Andrew redesigned their footwear to meet the growing demand in the US. Every sale from their thriving business helps them get more footwear to kids around the world that need them most.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

Just to remind myself how important it is that I never take my inexperience as a weakness, the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote he mentioned now sits, framed, on my desk:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

As Kenton so rightly points out, we are all capable of “practical compassion”.  We don’t have to be perfect, or fearless, or an expert, we are all capable of “doing what we can to help each other.” Like so many things in life, we are capable of far more than we think.

In fact, it was with a little act of practical compassion that we heard about The Shoe That Grows from one of our long time readers. She and her kids (who incorporate our articles into their home schooling curriculum) saw The Shoe That Grows and emailed us after saying to themselves “This should be on the Goodness Exchange!” Who knows how that ripple effect will grow.

I’ll leave you with one last thought today. I found the story of The Shoe That Grows remarkably inspiring, and it got me thinking. What if every day I tried in some way to challenge myself to an act of practical compassion? Why not make it a habit? While I am fortunate to have found my “purpose in life” with the Goodness Exchange, perhaps you may find your purpose while experimenting with practical compassion, too!

Thank you, Kenton Lee and The Shoe That Grows team for empowering us all and, through your work, reminding us that our collective future is as bright as ever!

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


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  1. “Why Shoes Are the First Step out of Poverty · Buckner International.” Buckner: Hope Shines Here, 2022 Buckner International, 12 Nov. 2020, https://www.buckner.org/blog/why-shoes-are-the-first-step-out-of-poverty/.
  2. Conti, Olivia. “Ghana: Walking without Shoes.” Pulitzer Center, The Pulitzer Center, 2 Oct. 2015, https://pulitzercenter.org/projects/ghana-walking-without-shoes.
  3. “The Shoe That Grows.” Because International, https://becauseinternational.org/the-shoe-that-grows.
  4. “The Shoe That Grows.” Because International, https://becauseinternational.org/the-shoe-that-grows.
  5. “A New Shoe That Grows for Children.” YouTube. CBS Evening News, 11 July 2015. Web. 06 Mar. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvMQLYTdYUA>.
  6. Lee, Kenton. “You Don’t Need a Doctorate to Make a Difference | Kenton Lee | TEDxBoise.” YouTube. TEDx Talks, 02 May 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpFb7eGt-4g>.
Image: Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber


Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at the Goodness Exchange. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV

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