Ubuntu Water Dads: Meet Peter

Ubuntu Made is not the only enterprise that helps to fund the Foundations programs and provides empowered jobs in Maai Mahiu. In 2008 one of Ubuntu's employees in Kenya came up with the idea to start bottling water to provide additional revenue and to gain access to reliable clean water for our programs and families in need. We researched natural source points, piping, purification, and packaging. Then with generous funding from donors across the world, we tapped into a nearby well and Ubuntu Water became a reality and has been steadily growing ever since.

One unexpected benefit of the Ubuntu Water program is that we now not only employ mums at Ubuntu - now we have Ubuntu dads on board!

MEET CALEB'S DAD

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Peter Munyingi is the proud father of 5 children, but as with many in our small rural community, he was struggling to make ends meet and provide even the basic necessities such as food for his family. Through his employment at Ubuntu Water, Peter now has the ability to see his family thrive thanks to a steady income, health care, employee benefits such as financial training, and of course access to clean reliable water.

On top of all of that, Caleb's mother is able to take more dedicated care of his younger siblings because she is not walking to the quarry to look for casual jobs to help her husband make ends meet. This means Caleb is now able to attend school every single day - he is one of our star students with perfect attendance almost every week and has benefited immensely from the additional time with our family of occupational therapists and teachers.

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Ubuntu Water has a positive effect across all of the Ubuntu departments, from creating empowered jobs for community members and parents of our students to providing clean water to our offices and Cafe Ubuntu. Even more critically, this clean, reliable source of water is used at all of the Ubuntu Heal medical camps. It is not a secret that there is a water and sanitation crisis in Kenya. More than half of the population of the entire country relies on unimproved water sources, and even more use unimproved sanitation solutions and store water in open barrels, leading to breeding grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

At Ubuntu our hearts are always full, empowered by the strength of our community and the generosity of those who not only understand our vision of committing to this community in an 'inch wide, mile deep' approach but who invest in it and allow us to provide sustainable, scalable growth of our programs and our impact. Caleb's father is a great example of why Ubuntu Water is not just a water bottling enterprise - it empowers the community to thrive, provides the lifeblood of health in our pediatric programs which effect over 300 special needs children and their families, and creates meaningful jobs. Thank you to everyone who has helped make this idea a reality - we cannot wait to share with you as we grow the enterprise and our impact.

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Ubuntu Mum Makers: Meet Josephine

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Avery Parducci / HungerFree Quarterly
Before the opening of the Ubuntu Special Needs Centre, special needs children in Maai Mahiu were unable to receive an education and their mothers would care for them during the day. Once built, these grateful mothers had more time but lacked skill training and faced stigma in the community. They wanted to use their free time to earn money to support their family. Through listening to people in the community, we realized the next step was helping with skills and employment. This was the start of Ubuntu Made. Beginning with ten mothers, they learnt to sew. Two years later, after partnering with Whole Foods Market, these women were selling high-quality products to customers around the world. Suddenly, these women were no longer outcasts; they have a voice in their families and in their communities. In addition to being able to feed their children, many of the founding women have created their own side businesses, with others in the community coming to them for employment opportunities.

When Josephine’s daughter, Abigail, was born, she had a deformity. Abigail was born missing an arm. “It caused a lot of chaos in the family,” says Josephine, “it created a kind of blame game with my husband.” At the age of two, Abigail was enrolled into Ubuntu’s Special Needs Center. Shortly after, Josephine was one of the first mothers to begin working with Ubuntu. Learning how to sew was not easy at first. She says that nine out of ten of the products she made were rejected, not good enough to be sold. But she quickly progressed in her skills.
Life for Josephine and her family has changed significantly since she started with Ubuntu in 2008. Their family has reliable income, providing food for the family and allowing her children to go to school. They bought land and built a house. Outside of her work at Ubuntu Made, Josephine purchased a sewing machine and sews in the evenings and weekends, creating school bags which she sells to other families in the community.

Since at first she did not experience seeing other kids with disabilities, it took Josephine a while to accept Abigail’s condition. Through working at Ubuntu, Josephine has connected with other parents of children with disabilities. They share and learn from one another. Ubuntu has given a good image to the community on disability and a reflection on one-ness, working with the mums and kids no one else would accept.

Josephine says she has learned lots of things in her nearly ten years with Ubuntu. She knows now that she has something to share with her community. While she came in knowing nothing about sewing, Josephine is now able to train other people in the community, sharing her knowledge, skills and experiences with the other mothers. “We always say ubuntu, and we say that it means ‘I am because we are,” says Josephine,

“I need you and you need me, and that’s why we are working together. We need each other besides our differences and our families. We are one and we need each other to survive.”

I am Because We Are: A Letter from Beth Hadi

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I have been a pediatric critical care nurse for over 15 years, and have had the privilege of working as an Ubuntu HEAL volunteer since hearing about the organization in 2010.  I became a nurse to help vulnerable children and those who were too sick to care for themselves.  I wanted to serve in underserved communities here in the US and Africa.  I wasn’t sure how to start in another country, so I began searching for organizations involved in Africa in local communities. 

I researched and worked with different global health organizations over a period of a few years.  I could not find one that had health as a primary focus or that focused on sustainable projects.  I was discouraged and put the idea on hold until I was invited to listen to a presentation explaining an organization that was looking for medical partners to help with their “inch wide, mile deep” concept.  It was there where I met Zane Wilemon and hearing him speak about the history of CTC International (CTC, now Ubuntu) was what I had been looking for. 
 
After a few conversations with the CTC team, I joined a needs assessment medical team going to Maai Mahiu in May 2011.  It was there where my entire life changed.  The team assessed well over 600 patients in 4 days.  The patients were all ages, from different tribes, and with many different needs.  It was our first time holding a clinic, and we did not have everything needed to care for most of the issues we encountered.  The feeling was overwhelming.  I know some were discouraged but the love I witnessed from the people in Maai Mahiu completely inspired me.
 
Since the 2011 trip, Ubuntu HEAL has formed and has had twenty medical teams from Austin, TX go to Maai Mahiu specializing in pediatrics and pediatric sub-specialty care.  We have children with complex chronic diseases who are managed well by these teams along with follow-up care from the Ubuntu Community Health Workers (CHWs).  The CHWs tireless dedication and passion focused on providing excellence in pediatric care is incredible. 
 
Ubuntu HEAL has had pediatric neurology, cardiology, dermatology, infectious disease, and emergency medicine sub-specialties in Maai Mahiu, Kenya.  Many families travel from all over Kenya to come to the clinics.  Providers from outlying hospitals now refer kids to these clinics.  So an area that did not have pediatric care is now leading the area with pediatric sub-specialties.
 
I have had the honor of witnessing our patients do amazing things.  Some who could not walk due to their condition are now walking.  Kids who have had seizures every single day for years have become seizure free.  Kids who could not talk are now talking, and kids who could not go to school because of their condition are attending because they now have their disease under control.
 
As a volunteer for Ubuntu HEAL, I am privileged to have worked with so many wonderful people in Kenya.  These experiences and people have strengthened my faith, helped me become a better mom, and have improved the way I practice as a nurse.  Ubuntu has changed my life and I am forever grateful.

Older and Wiser: A Reflection on 15 Years from Jeremiah

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It’s hard to imagine that 15 years have passed while working for Ubuntu and doing community work.  There are lots of great memories of all that has happened in our lives and within the community. 

I met with Zane when I was just a simple soul working hard to improve the lives of 140 children in an orphanage.  He noticed me but my face was too preoccupied with the overwhelming need of the children that I was serving.  Zane was touched by the poverty and wanted to come again and learn and also explore ideas of how to help.  I am so glad we have kept the friendship going strong and have continued to do lots of good things together. Although I refer to him as a tick that grabs and never leaves yet we have enjoyed the ride together. 

When you care about humanity and a community that is struggling to make ends meet, the desire is always to make a difference in your own small way. 

Zane and I decided to have lunch every week and we did for a whole year.  The rest of the story is what we are celebrating now. 

We learned about each other and also learned about the community culture and needs. 

We knew we were going to do something and also wanted to do it right. We tried many things and I can say in 15 years we have done it, we have succeeded and we have also failed enough times. We have felt the pain and the challenging side of doing community work.  We have almost shut down the company for lack of resources, but one thing has been very clear and convincing without a doubt.  That all the lives we have touched and impacted are worth every dime we have spent.   We have learned that we are all connected and there is need for everyone to do their part. 

As a result of staying true to the call, fifteen years later, many children have gone to school and have successfully graduated, many lives have been saved through our health care program, many families have acquired property and now have a place to call home while many others have started side businesses as they work for Ubuntu. 

We have seen company growth and also personal growth on all our staff.  We have witnessed needs being met from the very basic need of food and shelter, to greater needs being met of self esteem and a sense of belonging. It has been a joyful ride despite all the challenges. 

Our program for children with special needs continue to be a winner in every aspect.  Children are now living with dignity and receiving training and support to run their lives independently.  The kind of transformation we have seen in some of our children is incomparable. The moms have a great self esteem and huge appreciation of the efforts to appreciate the special gifts of children who they had always considered as a curse. And not to mention that due to consistent income, the moms have a voice in family decisions, something that was only a dream is now a reality to many. 

I am thankful to God for the far he has brought us and I am thankful to many Tribe members and friends of Ubuntu that have stayed faithful from the very beginning until now. For all your love and sharing of your resources with us, we say God bless you abundantly. 

There are many more families who are still in need of a hand to be able to do and live as expected. They need the love, care and the opportunities that will improve their lives. 

I urge our Tribe members to stay the course and continue to be our ambassadors of the good work going on here. 

Thank you all and Asante Sana. 

I have grown older and definitely wiser. 

God bless!

A Defining Moment: A Reflection on 15 Years from Zane

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When I think back on the 15 years of creating and living Ubuntu one story stands out as the most formative. It was around 2005 and we were hosting one of our first medical teams in Maai Mahiu. I was helping out with patient screenings when a young woman with little children walked into the room. She was very frail and extremely sick. We escorted the children out of the room and continued with taking her vitals. The local Kenya clinician suggested that we do an HIV test as he felt she was positive. The results came back quickly and indeed the young mother was HIV positive. I then proceeded to share her diagnosis with her. What followed was and still is one of the most vivid memories of my life. The young woman began crying uncontrollably, gauze that was plugged in her nose from a nosebleed came out and blood poured onto the floor. I remember the clinician tried to excuse her from the room, but I refused him and decided to sit with this woman who had just received what I can only imagine for her was a death sentence. We sat together for what seemed hours. I did not cure her and we could only converse intermittently due to our language barrier and the sobbing. However, I share this story because what did take place for me was a profound shift in my being and a moment of clarity of purpose. We will stand alongside this community and do what we can to alleviate peoples suffering, help them to stand with their pain and to creatively innovate opportunities that will shift the future for their children and their childrens children.

Today Ubuntu serves thousands of lives, has hosted hundreds of volunteers from around the world and has had the opportunity to create a few key programs that are empowering the marginalized to take ownership of their own lives. I think back on that moment over a decade ago and realize now how much that young woman changed my life. I had never sat with someone in the midst of such horrific pain before. And in a very real way her pain broke me open to create something that I pray will continue to serve, empower and heal thousands of other women, children and families for decades to come.