NAMPA — Because International, a local nonprofit known for The Shoe That Grows, has partnered with another nonprofit Eco-Soap Bank to donate a bar of soap for every pair of shoes donated.
Because International created a growing shoe that is distributed to children in need around the world, and has also launched other small products and works with like-minded entrepreneurs. Founder Kenton Lee said when the COVID-19 pandemic started in the United States, his staff began brainstorming ways to get resources to people in need.
“Our mission is much more than our shoes,” Lee said.
Lee had met the founder of Eco-Soap Bank Samir Lakhani several years ago, and developed a good relationship with him. He said he reached out to Lakhani, and solidified a partnership in early April. Eco-Soap Bank donated about 10,000 bars of soap to Because International’s Nampa headquarters.
Eco-Soap Bank produces its own soap and uses unused hotel soap in its products and distributes it to developing countries. According to its website, the nonprofit has supplied more than 650,000 people with soap and hygiene education in at least 10 countries.
Since starting their partnership, Lee estimated Because International has distributed about 1,500 bars of soap, mostly in a shipment to another nonprofit Lifting Hands International, a Utah-based organization that provides aid to refugees. Lee said the nonprofit received about 1,250 pairs of shoes and about as many bars of soap.
With all of Because International’s soap inventory in Nampa, Lee said the nonprofit has mostly stuck to domestic shipments of soap. However, he said they are working with Eco-Soap Bank, and hope to have some soap available internationally within a few weeks.
About 99% of Because International’s work is international, but Lee said the pandemic has made international travel difficult. Previously, he said the most common way the nonprofit transported shoes was by sending them with church members, Rotary Club members, or other individuals working with the nonprofit on their international trips. But now they have to look at other means of transport.
Because International has a facility in Kenya that builds its shoes, which Lee said has allowed shoe distribution to continue in Kenya and other parts of east Africa. For other locations, he said they are working with other nonprofits to ship their shoes.
Though it has been difficult, Lee said the partnership with Eco-Soap Bank has gone well so far, and he could see Because International continue to offer soap donations even after the pandemic is over.
“This might become the new normal for us,” Lee said.