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Though difficult for most of us to even imagine, it's a reality for tens of millions of impoverished kids around the world: living every day without shoes on your feet. In India, it's shockingly common to see shoeless infants and toddlers, an obvious health risk that can lead to infections like hookworm and even elephantiasis.

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Hospitality and restaurant workers have tough jobs. In fact, they experience higher rates of substance abuse, alcoholism and depression than almost any other field.

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When Mohan Sudabattula was volunteering in the prosthetic department of a Utah hospital, he noticed that medical rehab equipment like crutches and wheelchairs tended to have a short life: that is, it was typically used by one person, then thrown away.

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Each year, 313 million surgical procedures take place around the world. Unbelievably, only 6 percent take place in our poorest nations, and it's estimated that 5 billion people worldwide lack access to safe and affordable surgery. The problem is especially dire on the continent of Africa, where people are routinely forced to do without medical services that are taken for granted elsewhere in the world.

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Just before her seventh birthday, Jenny Shaw was diagnosed with kidney cancer. The doctors told her and her stricken parents that the tumor had metastasized to Jenny's liver, and would require chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

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When Joelle Eyeson and her organization Hive Earth set out to address housing problems in Ghana, their goal was to provide structures that were both eco-friendly and affordable. For instance, building with cement is especially bad for air quality in Ghana's hot climate, so they came up with an alternative: their "rammed earth" technique combines laterite, clay and granite chips for a cheaper, more sustainable material that eliminates 95% of the toxic cement.

This is just one of the innovations they are incorporating into their homes to make them not just more sustainable, but more livable as well. They've also come up with a ventilation method that utilizes a solar pump, an arrangement that costs $300 to install–and nothing to opera...

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Catherine Garcia Flowers came to Houston following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a violent storm in which she and her parents both lost their homes. She soon met Pastor Rudy Rasmus, who saw her vast energy and potential as she quickly went to work feeding Houston's hungry and less fortunate.

After Rasmus founded Bread of Life, a nonprofit serving Houston's homeless, they stayed in touch. And when Flowers was considering a move to Honduras years later, he talked her out of it. His reason: Rasmus needed her to take the reins of his growing organization. She agreed–and within just weeks, Hurricane Harvey struck Houston. Her decision was seemingly meant to be, as Flowers was perfectly positioned to help after her experience with Katrina. P...

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Food access is a vexing problem, especially in the inner cities, and small business has a critical role to play in providing workable solutions. We've seen scores of hopeful innovations in this area, many aimed at redirecting the tons of food that are wasted in our cities every day.

Entrepreneur Mark Brand knows what it's like to be hungry; he was once homeless himself. And as a chef, he has a unique perspective on the matter: “I believe that food is the conduit to love and to show people that we really deeply care about them and their success. And that every time we do the opposite, it is the opposite. It’s disrespecting people,” he explains.

Brand and his company MBI have created a program that allows people to buy meal...

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It has always been a peculiar trait of American culture: we love to tear down our heroes. It seems that by witnessing their foibles, we feel a commonality with our icons that would otherwise be denied.

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