Tag Archives: costa rica

A Special Gift for the Holidays

When we think about Christmas, we often think about giving the perfect gifts to family and friends. Gift giving comes in all forms – whether it is buying a loved one a sweater, writing a poem for them, or making them dinner – it is a meaningful way to show others that you care. For sponsors Bill and Ilene Hafker, their idea of gift giving is to help children in need, involving their friends in the process, and giving Bill’s mother what they knew she would consider to be the perfect Christmas gift.

We caught up with Bill, a retired environmental engineer from Oakton, Virginia, to talk about his sponsorship experience, and how the holidays influenced a different kind of gift giving.

S.C.: How did you find out about Children Incorporated?

B.H.: It was the early 1980s, and I read about the organization in a promotional brochure that crossed my path. I was in a situation where I was looking for a good cause to support. We have been sponsors for more than thirty years now! Over the years, we have sponsored nearly twenty children.

S.C.: Tell us a little bit about your early sponsorship experience.

B.H.: My wife and I sponsored one child together at first, and then we decided to sponsor a second. We thought this was a worthy cause, and wanted to let our friends get involved, too. When we sent out our annual Christmas letter in 2002, we asked them to contribute to our sponsorship of that child. We called our new sponsorship “The Hafkers and Friends”. As a result of that letter, we received enough contributions to sponsor a little girl from Costa Rica named Maria*. We knew our friends would love to help because they are like-minded people who feel the same way we do about giving back to the world and helping others in need. A few years later, my family and I went to meet Maria at the project she attended, La Milagrosa. We took Maria and her family to restaurants and museums in San Jose, and had a lovely time getting to know Maria, her mother, and her siblings.

We knew our friends would love to help because they are like-minded people who feel the same way we do about giving back to the world and helping others in need.

About ten years ago, we decided to sponsor a third child. Instead of exchanging Christmas gifts with my two brothers that year, or getting my mom a traditional present, which she usually ends up saying she doesn’t need, we decided to sponsor a child in honor and thanksgiving of our mom. Mom’s Christmas gift each year since has been sponsorship of “her” child, and she loves receiving it every time! This year, us three brothers wanted to increase our gift to our mom, so we sponsored a second child for her, and committed to sponsoring both children for ten years.

S.C.: Do you communicate with any of your sponsored children directly? Do they send you letters?

B.H.: There have been times in the past when we have been better at that, but we try to send letters periodically – at least once a year. They write to us as well. I can tell that they are encouraged to do art, and to create a meaningful way to express themselves in their correspondence. It is wonderful to get an update on how they are doing in school, and what they like most about it, as well as to have pictures to see what they are thinking about and how they are feeling.

S.C.: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your sponsored children?

B.H.: We currently sponsor a child named Adnan* who is at a school for the deaf in Lebanon. It is especially rewarding to be able to help a child who needs extra assistance in that regard. Not long ago, we were told by a Children Incorporated staff member that a former sponsored child of ours in India decided to pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and is very close to graduating. We are very proud of him for that, and we’re thankful for what little part we might have played in making that possible.

*Names changed to protect the children.

***

A Thousand Shoes for a Thousand Kids

As the end of the year approaches, I can say that the Children Incorporated staff as a whole is amazed by what we have accomplished thus far in 2017, thanks to our incredible sponsors and donors. When our President and CEO, Ron Carter, sent out a letter in December of 2016 asking our supporters to help us reach our goal of providing 1,000 pairs of new shoes to sponsored and unsponsored children at our projects in the coming year, we never dreamed the response would be so tremendous.

Just three months after launching our Shoe Fund campaign, our supporters had already donated more than $30,000 to ensure that children in our program in Latin America, Africa, and Asia would receive new shoes. We can’t thank you enough for what you have done for these special young girls and boys.

The importance of shoes

There are a lot of basic needs that children go without on a daily basis – something we understand all too well. Providing basic necessities, like clothing, food, hygiene items, and educational support, to kids is the foundation of our sponsorship program, and we believe that each and every one of these aspects is incredibly important in helping children have a greater chance to succeed in life. So why did Mr. Carter want to focus in particular on getting shoes to kids in need?

“Over the years, we have heard many heartbreaking stories about children who are unable to attend school because they don’t have wearable shoes.”

“Over the years, we have heard many heartbreaking stories about children who are unable to attend school because they don’t have wearable shoes,” says Mr. Carter. “In some cases, children attend school only every other day because they have to share a single pair of shoes with a sibling. We have always made a point of providing good, solid shoes to these children, knowing that shoes can be very expensive. As such, the Children Incorporated Shoe Fund campaign has been one of our most meaningful endeavors.”

1,235 pairs and counting

We are very grateful that our donors understand that items that can sometimes appear small and insignificant can really improve the lives of children. Shoes may not seem like a big deal, but as Mr. Carter stated, it’s sometimes the difference between a child going to school or not.

Because of you, we have provided children at our affiliated projects the Pedro Poveda School, Guarderia El Angel, the Lourdes School, the Santa Clotilde Orphanage, Villa Emilia, the Montero Home, and the Cristo Rey Mission in Bolivia with shoes this year. Thanks to you, children at Hogar Santa Julia and Hogar Santa Maria in Mexico have brand new shoes to wear to school. If it weren’t for you, children at the Dandora Community Center in Kenya, the Rainbow ‘Erdata’ Center in Ethiopia, Chrishanti Lama Sevana in Sri Lanka, La Milagrosa in Costa Rica, and Santa Isabel Ana Seton in Guatemala wouldn’t have received new footwear, either.

To date, we have provided 1,235 pairs of shoes to kids in need, and we will continue distributing shoes in the upcoming months.

Thank you for all that you do to help children – we couldn’t do it without you.

***

Helping the Young and Old Alike

A five-hour drive from Costa Rica’s capital is the small town of Bribri in the Talamanca region, southeast of San Jose, along the border of Panama. The town is inhabited mostly by the indigenous Bribri tribe, which is comprised of people who live and work close to the Sixaola River, which separates Costa Rica from Panama by just a short boat ride.

The area produces various crops, including bananas, plantains, cacao, and a variety of tropical fruits; agriculture provides little income for the families in the region, however. Among the houses and schools within the Bribri community is the Santa Luisa home for the elderly, which not only serves the aging population, but also provides support for children in the community.

A Surprising Connection

Sister Bertalina with one of our sponsored kids

We left San Jose at 4:00 a.m. to make the drive to Bribri; we passed over mountains and then drove along the Caribbean coast until the paved road we had been traveling on stopped, and a gravel path lead us into the jungle, the river to the south visible every so often over banana trees. When we arrived at Santa Luisa, we saw a community center at the entrance gate, and there was a basketball court in front of it. Directly behind it was the home for the elderly, which consisted of four or five separate buildings connected by walkways. Another home sat on a hill above the driveway, where Sister Bertalina, our volunteer coordinator, was waiting for us.

Upon greeting us, Sister Bertalina explained that she had been our coordinator for two years at La Milagrosa in San Jose – which we had visited just the day before – until 2011, when she came to Santa Luisa. Before that, she had worked at one of our other affiliate projects, Casa Central, in Guatemala as well! In the last ten years, she has been our coordinator for three different projects in two different countries – meaning she has a lot of experience with how to best support the children in our program.

A Community in Need

Sister Bertalina showed us around the grounds of Santa Luisa, which are well-kept and full of chickens, roosters, and fruit trees – all of which provide food for the residents of the home. Santa Luisa is funded and run by the government. Ten staff members help care for upwards of 25 elderly residents at a time, and the four Sisters that live on the property help to oversee operations, as well as provide support for the children and their families in the surrounding communities through our sponsorship program.

Both the young and old are being affected by the delicate nature of their families’ economic situations – all because of poverty.

For the last nine years, during five of which Sister Bertalina has been at Santa Luisa, the 83 children in our program have been receiving food, clothing, shoes, and school supplies upon monthly visits to the home. Although the children and the elderly don’t interact with one another during those visits, in many ways, they go to the home for similar reasons. The elderly there have families who are no longer able help them as they become older and unable to care for themselves. Being a casualty of the cycle of poverty, these families can’t afford to take care of aging parents or extended family members, and they are forced to leave them in the government’s care.

This is something that I have become used to seeing with children in our program, but hadn’t yet seen with the elderly. Both young and old are being affected by the delicate nature of their families’ economic situations – all because of poverty. The elderly residents, just like so many children, are lacking the support they greatly need, and are just as vulnerable as children are.

Living in the Jungle

After showing us the Santa Luisa grounds, Sister Bertalina took us to visit the home of two children in our program, only a few-minute drive away. The visit took us deep into the jungle, where at first glance, it didn’t seem that a path off the main road existed at all. Blanketed by large banana trees, it was narrow and muddy, and it took us up a steep incline. When we arrived at the wooden two-bedroom house, which was built on stilts on the side of a hill, we were greeted by the father, who held his small son in his arms. His wife and their other son were out, but he told us we would meet them at Santa Luisa the next day, when we were to meet with the other sponsored children in our program.

It is more than just a home for the old which also supports the young – it is a home that makes a difference for everyone in-between in Bribri, too.

The father explained that the roof leaks whenever it rains, which forces them to bag their clothes and tie those bags to the rafters in order to keep their belongings dry. The family has little money for food because the father makes a very low wage working banana fields. The youngest son is anemic, which makes it difficult to keep him healthy. As we left, Sister Bertalina mentioned that she wants to buy mattresses for many of these families who sleep on the floor or foam padding. She also wishes she could start a nutritional program for the families so she could provide them with vitamins, as well as instructions on how to eat well.

Neither Young nor Old

Andreia helps a sponsored child try on her new shoes

The following day, the children went to the center to meet with us, along with their mothers, and some with their fathers, like the family we had met the day before. The children were excited to meet with us, and it gave them a chance to play on the playground, too. They ran around together until it was time for us to hand out school supplies and shoes we had brought with us for them to take home. Each child received a pair of shoes from Because International, a book bag, pencils, erasers, toothbrushes, and toothpaste.

After they received their gifts, the mothers served a large meal of rice, potatoes, and vegetables. After we ate, everyone went home for they day, and we said our goodbyes. The family we had visited the day before came to speak with us – the father, the mother, and the two small boys. The parents, who were neither young nor old, expressed their gratitude for the support they receive from our program, thanks to the Santa Luisa home.

It occurred to me how important Santa Luisa is to this community. It is more than just a home for the old which also supports the young – it is a home that makes a difference for everyone in-between in Bribri, too.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COSTA RICA?

You can sponsor a child in Costa Rica in one of two ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Costa Rica that is available for sponsorship.

Finding Friendship Through Sponsorship

When we first met our volunteer coordinator, Marta, at the Costa Rica Center in San Jose, I could tell she was full of energy. A small Costa Rican woman, she walked quickly down the sidewalk away from our hotel, as Andreia, our International Projects Specialist, and I tried to keep up. When we got to her car, she shuffled us in, having a busy agenda for the day.

Ricky, Marta (left), and Ricky’s mom, outside of their home

In the morning, we would be visiting the houses of four of our sponsored children, and then we would be meeting the eighteen children enrolled in our program at the community center, which Marta uses as their monthly meeting spot. There, the mothers and the children had something special planned for us.

A Second Mother

The Costa Rica Center has been a Children Incorporated affiliate project for more than thirty years. Our founder, Mrs. Jeanne Clarke Wood, originally started working with this place when it was an orphanage. At that time, it had a school attached to it, which Marta’s son, who is now grown, attended. Marta worked as a volunteer with our former coordinator at the school, and eventually took over for her. She has been our coordinator at the Costa Rica Center for twenty years now.

Today, the orphanage is no longer there, and Marta has found another location at which to meet with the children in our program. Our program could have disappeared with the closing of the orphanage and the school, but instead, Marta happily took over all the responsibilities that go along with sponsorship, acting in many ways as a second mother to these children, which she isn’t really far from.

She has seen many of the children grow up in our sponsorship program, having been enrolled in primary school, and going on to graduate. A lot of the children have been in the program for ten years or more, which says a lot about Marta. She has used her abundance of energy to help keep these kids in school for many years.

The Importance of Longevity

Marta happily took over all the responsibilities that go along with sponsorship, acting in many ways as a second mother to these children, which she isn’t really far from.

All the Costa Rica Center children live in the city of San Jose, in various impoverished neighborhoods, and they attend the local schools. Many of them are in high school, or are just graduating and moving on to college or trade school. I was so impressed with Marta – her personal dedication to helping these kids was amazing, and the fact that so many older children, mostly between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, are enrolled shows me that she understands the importance of longevity when it comes to sponsorship.

Keeping children in the program as long as possible, and keeping up with their home lives and families is a big job – and Marta is obviously doing it well. She not only meets with the children on a monthly basis to provide them with food baskets, but she also plans holiday and Mother’s Day activities to give the children and their families a chance to get together and celebrate. She also has monthly meetings with the mothers to discuss whatever concerns they may have.

Helping Children Become Teens

Theresa and her mom in their house in San Jose

Our first stop was Ricky’s home, which was a small house down a narrow alleyway in the city. In his early teens, Ricky is a ninth-grader who lives with his parents and two siblings. His mother talked to us about how much sponsorship helps the whole family – with Ricky receiving support, they have less to worry about, and it also motivates Ricky to do well in school so he can stay in the program.

Marta also took us to Theresa’s house. Theresa was born five months prematurely and has had health issues ever since she was an infant. She is now nineteen, has always needed a wheelchair to get around, and has had multiple complications throughout her life that have lead to long stays away from home – sometimes even months – in the hospital. Theresa’s single mother receives very little help from the government to cover health care costs, and the government prevents her from working because she must care for her daughter full-time.

Theresa’s sponsor sends additional gifts to help with her special needs, which has been a great help for the family, who never knows when Theresa might end up back in the hospital – and her sponsor has even visited a few times over the years. As I look around the house, I notice a picture of Theresa on the wall, holding a violin. Her mom told us that one time, when Theresa was hospitalized for four months, the staff there gave the children musical instruments so that they would have something to do. Theresa learned to play while she was recovering, and plays all the time now.

The Joy of Laughter

After our home visits, Marta took us to the community center where she meets with the mothers and children. The center is large, with a stage in front, and benches lining a wall. The mothers all brought homemade dishes for lunch, as well as homemade crafts to show us. Ceramics, paintings, and knitted garments lined a long table that was against a wall. Marta explained that she encourages the mothers to make crafts to sell, so they can earn additional income.

After lunch, the children had a special performance planned for us. They did an interpretive dance, which was very well choreographed, considering these teens do not see each other very often at the center, nor do they live close to one another or attend the same schools. They had taken the time to get together to practice, and it was apparent that they enjoyed being together as a group, because they worked really well as a team.

It was great to see that they have become close – more than friends – over the many years they have had sponsors.

After their performance, Andreia and I spoke with the mothers, while the teenagers sat on the stage and chatted, laughing excitedly, and enjoying the desert their mothers had prepared. I kept getting distracted by their laughter, and my eyes wandered over them, one different giggling face after another coming into my view.

I love knowing that these children have gotten to know each other because of our program, since they probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. It was great to see that they have become close – more than friends – over the many years they have had sponsors. These teens are like family, with Marta acting as an additional mother in their lives, all supporting each other as they grow up.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COSTA RICA?

You can sponsor a child in Costa Rica one of two ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Costa Rica that is available for sponsorship.

The Trouble with Rain

In so many countries around the world, drought is a constant worry, causing problems for crop cultivation and keeping impoverished people from having access to drinking water. In San Jose, Costa Rica, in the slum neighborhood that surrounds our affiliate project La Milagrosa, a welfare center that supports more than seventy sponsored children, families have the opposite problem. Instead of the rainy season bringing relief from arid conditions, it causes those families to fear losing their homes to the mudslides that often come with it.

Sister Vielka with a mother and daughter outside their home

Costa Rica, with a population of about 4.5 million people – nearly a quarter of whom live in the metropolitan area of the capital an
d largest city, San Jose – is one of the most stable and prosperous nations in Latin America. Because of that, its not cheap to live there and everything is expensive, especially food. But despite the high cost of living there, the country attracts a great deal of migrant families.
Costa Rica is surrounded by nations that are much worse off than it is. Nicaragua and Panama have higher poverty rates, less stable governments, a lack of employment opportunities, and violence is more rampant there. This leads families, desperate for better lives for themselves and for their children, to migrate to Costa Rica in search of employment and a safer environment in which to live.

Unfortunately, what they find when they arrive is low-paying jobs for men in construction or field labor; and the only land they find to build on as undocumented immigrants is government-owned and in the hills of San Jose, which is subject to frequent mudslides. The rainy season last from May to November, so for half the year, work can be inconsistent, and families are concerned about losing their homes and all their belongings.

The Sun Shines on La Milagrosa

At La Milagrosa, which is run by our volunteer coordinator Sister Vielka, children receive food on a monthly basis, as well as educational support, mostly in the form of encouragement from the Sisters. Most of the children live with their single mothers who struggle to find support in a foreign country. Some receive food stamps from the government, but most are trying to get by on their own, away from their home country and extended family.

Six Sisters live at the home, and they not only make sure the children are fed, but they also offer emotional support to the mothers, who might find work cleaning houses or doing laundry. But those jobs fill only for a few hours a week, which isn’t enough – and it causes them a great deal of stress. The Sisters talk with the women about their issues, and counsel them through tough times.

Instead of the rainy season bringing relief from arid conditions, it causes those families to fear losing their homes to the mudslides that often come with it.

As we visit with the children at the home, Sister Vielka explains that they have to turn in their report cards and show passing grades in order to stay in our program. She says that this rule has been working really well to not only motivate the children, but also to keep their mothers engaged in their learning.

The Sisters would love to one day run an after-school tutoring program so that the children could receive additional support; that would require funding to hire a teacher to work with the kids. La Milagrosa is currently not receiving any support from the government or elsewhere, and there are few resources outside of Children Incorporated sponsorship to do more to support the kids’ education.

When It Rains, It Pours

We left La Milagrosa in the early afternoon to walk through the neighborhood to visit the homes of some of our sponsored children. It was a bright and cool day, and there was not a cloud in the sky. We walked with Sister Vielka and her assistant Gisela down a steep hill, and then down a dirt path covered by giant, lush tropical plants, taking us off the main road into what felt like a jungle within a city.

Gisela told that seven years ago, rain took five houses from families in the middle of the night. Luckily, the occupants were able to get out safely in time, but they all lost everything they had in the mudslide.

Andreia Beraldo, International Project Specialist, outside the home of a family who lost their bathroom to a mudslide last month

We walked up tightly-packed dirt steps that had been carved into the side of the mountain to reach our first home, where a woman greeted us in the doorway. When we walked into the living room, she pointed to the floor with one hand, as she held her small baby in the other arm, and told us that the floor used to extend further out – but rain had washed part of it away, exposing the ground below and leaving a huge hole in their home.

It seems like only a matter of time before the rest of the floor will go sliding down with the rain, leaving this family homeless. Last month, rain took out their bathroom, which had been on the side of the house. When we walked outside to leave, we could see what was left of a small structure where there was no longer a toilet, but only another hole left in the ground on the property.

With each home visit, we seemed to go further and further up into the hills. Since the land is owned by the government, the families risk not only having their homes wash away in the rain, but also being removed at any point. Gisela explained that when it rains a lot, the children aren’t able to get to school, because it becomes too dangerous for them to be walking around.

After visiting four or fives houses, we could see why so many of our conversations with families and the Sisters were about the rain. Each house was barely clinging to the blanket of dirt beneath it on a dry day like that day – looming on all of our minds was what will happen when the rain inevitably comes.

As we walked back to La Milagrosa, the clouds started to come in heavily; and in the distance, we could hear the rumble of thunder. By the time we reached the home, it had started to pour.

***

HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN COSTA RICA?

You can sponsor a child in Costa Rica one of two ways – call our office and speak with one of our sponsorship specialists at 1-800-538-5381, or go online to our donation portal, create and account, and search for a child in Costa Rica that is available for sponsorship.

The Power of Shoes: A Pair of Organizations Working Together

If any organization can attest to the power of small things making a big difference, it’s Children Incorporated. We understand just how important a notebook, a pencil, a new shirt, a toothbrush, or a pair of socks can be for a child who doesn’t have these basic necessities in their life.

By April, donations to the Shoe Fund exceeded $30,000 – meaning more than 1,500 children will be receiving new shoes this year.

There is nothing like a new pair of shoes for a kid, especially when they have never had new shoes – ever. It’s a small gesture, but it is so impactful, and we know that our donors understand this. At the end of 2016, we launched a Shoe Fund campaign to provide as many shoes as possible to children in 2017, and our supporters stepped right up to the challenge. By April, donations to the Shoe Fund exceeded $30,000 – meaning more than 1,500 children will be receiving new shoes this year.

One way we ensure that kids get shoes is by disbursing funds to our projects so that our volunteer coordinators can purchase pairs for children in our program. Another way we have decided to get shoes to kids in need is by partnering with an inventive already-existing organization to take shoes directly to our kids at our projects.

I first heard about Because International when they sent a pair of their famous Shoes That Grow to our office. I was in awe when I opened the box – two small shoes sat inside, covered in fasteners that allowed them to be adjusted up to five shoe sizes. I reached out to them immediately to talk more about their special shoe.

Photo: Because International

I spoke with Andrew Kroes, President of Because International, and he explained that their organization worked strictly with established non-profits just like Children Incorporated to get shoes to kids living in poverty. We also talked about how our goals as organizations were similar – to provide children with basic needs so that they can overcome obstacles and have the opportunity to be healthy and get an education, as well as be positioned for success in life.

A few weeks after we spoke, a bag of fifty shoes arrived to our office from Andrew. This week, I will be traveling with International Programs Specialist Andreia Beraldo to Costa Rica and Nicaragua to visit our affiliate sites, and we will be taking The Shoes That Grow with us! Before departing for our trip, I caught up with Andrew to talk more about why Because International feels that shoes are so important – and how shoes and education go hand-in-hand.


SC:
What is Because International, and how did it get started?

AK: The Shoe That Grows started when our Founder Kenton Lee was living and working at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007. One day, while walking with the kids, he noticed a little girl in a white dress next to him who had shoes that were way too small for her feet. That led to the question Why? – and finally, an idea: “Wouldn’t it be great if there were a shoe that could adjust and expand – so that kids always had a pair of shoes that fit?”

Kenton returned to the U.S. and told some friends about his idea. A non-profit called Because International was born, and its team devoted themselves to an idea they call “Practical Compassion” – coming up with small things that make a BIG difference for children living in poverty. Their first project was called The Shoe That Grows; and finally, after five years of hard work, their idea became a reality.

SC: Why shoes?

Photo: Because International

AK: In addition to being an “Aha!” moment for our founder, shoes are a simple everyday item that can be easily overlooked. But a pair of shoes can make a world of difference for a child in poverty. A new long-lasting pair of shoes can mean increased
mobility, protection from the environment, better health, more happiness, and it can help put a child in a position to succeed.

In some cases, a simple pair of shoes is what keeps a child from having the full uniform they need to attend school. A pair of shoes doesn’t solve every problem for a child, but it’s a piece of the puzzle. It’s our part, and we’re committed to it.

Kids’ feet grow, and parents know all too well how difficult it can be to keep their kids in a pair of shoes that fit and last. The Shoe That Grows is a practical solution for kids living in poverty. It’s a shoe that is functional and super durable, and it’s designed to keep a child in the same pair of shoes for years. It’s a shoe that grows health, happiness, and dignity, and that puts kids in a better position to succeed.

Instead of reinventing the wheel and trying to reach kids on our own, weknow there are already many groups that serve kids in need all around the world. We partner with these groups to help make the shoes and then get them sent. In short, we couldn’t fulfill our mission without this support.

SC: Why work with existing organizations like Children Incorporated?

It’s a shoe that grows health, happiness, and dignity, and that puts kids in a better position to succeed.

AK: As I just said, one of our guiding principles is to not recreate the wheel. We want to stick with what we’re best at, which is developing solutions and networking with other groups. Instead of spending time and resources finding children to serve, traveling, and distributing shoes, we know there are already groups who are doing this. These are groups that need long-lasting shoes for their kids; and in many cases, they source and pay for the shoes. Why not connect with these groups, and together, offer a better shoe?

SC: How many organizations has Because International worked with to date? What communities and people in the world have benefited from Because International?

AK: To date, we’ve worked with over 700 non-profits – churches, schools, clubs, individuals, and others – to distribute over 80,000 pairs of shoes in 84 countries across six continents. High concentration impoverished areas are in East Africa and Haiti, prompting us to source as many pairs as we can in these places. Production has begun in Ethiopia, and we’re in the beginning stages of arranging Haitian production.

SC: Do you have any special stories about the work of Because International?

AK: Yes. I would love to introduce you to Patrick.

Last year, we connected with a man named Eddie in Uganda. Eddie has helped coordinate testing we are doing for a new project. A few months prior, he was driving through a rural village in Uganda when he saw a boy climbing a tree trying to get an unripe jackfruit. The boy said he was hungry and wanted to have something in his stomach so he could sleep.

Photo: Because International

His name was Patrick, and he was thirteen years old. Eddie had compassion for Patrick, and taught him about farming so that he could earn a little money for his family.

When our Director of Operations Luke Goodman went to Uganda to check on the new project testing with Eddie, he took ten pairs of The Shoe That Grows with him. When Eddie saw the shoes, he immediately thought of Patrick. Patrick works on the farm and also walks long distances barefoot through harsh terrain to get to school.

As Eddie and Luke drove around, they decided to make a final stop at Patrick’s farm. He was there working in the cabbage field. Eddie handed him a pair of shoes. Luke helped him adjust the shoes to his foot size. Luke noticed how weathered his feet had become, even at such a young age.

Eddie shared a story that occurred after Luke left: The day after they gave the shoes to Patrick, he went out and fetched twenty liters of water, and then he sold them for 500 shillings ($0.14 USD). He used this money to make a phone call to Eddie. Eddie answered the phone, and Patrick only wanted to say thanks for the shoes, because it was the first pair of shoes he had ever owned. Since he is going to start school soon, he was so happy to have a pair of shoes to wear to walk the long distance.

SC: What are the future goals of Because International?

AK: We want to squeeze every ounce of impact out of the shoes that we can; this includes making the shoes as functional, durable, and comfortable as possible so that they truly are the best shoes in the world for a child living in poverty. From there, we want to bless people through the production of the shoes by making more and more of them in areas where they are being distributed the most. We’re also committed to keeping our eyes open for additional innovations and ideas that can make life a bit easier for kids living in poverty.

And finally, we want to come alongside those locally who have their own ideas and dreams, and help them make their dreams a reality. Innovation will continue to improve living standards for those living in poverty, and many of the most impactful solutions will be dreamed up by those living in the closest proximity.