Geographies in Depth

3 innovative ideas helping the world's poorest children 

This show grows with a child's foot. Image: Because International

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Shoes. Lamps. Desks.

They might seem like simple, everyday objects, but these three innovative ideas could make a huge differences to the lives of the 365 million children around the world who live in extreme poverty.

1. Small steps forward

Taking children to buy new shoes for school is a rite of passage in rich Western countries.

But in poor nations, it’s far from a given that youngsters will have shoes that fit their growing feet – or even any shoes at all.

Nearly 1.7 billion people around the world suffer from soil-transmitted diseases and parasites. Without shoes, children are particularly vulnerable.

Have you read?

An American charity, Because International, has created The Shoe That Grows to help solve the problem. Its founder was inspired to develop the shoes after visiting Kenya and seeing a young girl who had cut open the front of her shoes to make them fit.

The founder of Because International developed The Show That Grows after seeing a girl in Kenya who had to cut off the front of her shoes to make them fit.
Image: GroFive

Children often outgrow donated shoes within a year. The Shoe That Grows is designed to last for years and expand by five sizes. Each pair is made from compressed rubber, with adjustable straps, like a watch band, that allow them to be made larger as needed.

The shoes are priced at $20. More than 225,000 pairs have been distributed in dozens of countries by both individuals and organizations, who cover the cost themselves or through fundraising, and then either give them to children in person or add them to Christmas gift boxes organized by the charity.

The Shoe That Grows can expand by five sizes and is designed to last for years.
Image: Because International

Because International aims to manufacture its products in the developing world, where 1 in 10 people lives on less than $1.90 a day – helping to drive job creation and reduce carbon emissions.

2. Let it glow

According to researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, six million babies a year suffering from jaundice receive inadequate treatment. Many of the phototherapy treatment lamps in low-income countries rely on fluorescent bulbs that are expensive, burn out quickly, and are hard to replace.

D-Rev’s Brilliance Jaundice Lamp uses long-life LED bulbs that last long enough to treat 1,000 babies – compared to just 50 with a traditional bulb.

The D-Rev Brilliance Jaundice Lamp is helping thousands of babies in developing countries.
Image: D-Rev

So far, more than 550,000 babies have been treated with the Brilliance lamp, helping to avoid 7,500 infant deaths and disabilities.

3. Workspaces for all

South Korean designer Hayoung Lee created the Letter Desk – a foldable cardboard desk that can be used by students in developing countries without proper school facilities.

The lightweight desk, which has won multiple design awards, is low-cost and recyclable. It folds into a briefcase shape, and can be assembled in just four steps. A student can then sit on the ground and use it as a sturdy writing surface.

The Letter Desk makes life easier for children in developing countries without proper school facilities.
Image: Hayoung Lee

While traveling in India a couple of years ago, Lee saw students sitting or squatting on the ground, balancing school work on their legs. He wanted to create a product to help those children.

"I feel so much satisfaction to design for people who need help," he says.

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Geographies in DepthSocial Innovation
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