On July 2nd, the Ubuntu Life Foundation moved into the newly built Children's Wellness Centre (CWC). The Centre, which had been a dream for years, sits on our 11 acres of land in Maai Mahiu. We sat down with Ubuntu Life Foundation Board Member, investor, and Tribe Heart Member, Chelsea Dee Thom to talk about her experience witnessing the growth of Ubuntu and the opening of the Centre.
How long have you been a part of Ubuntu? What inspired you to get involved?
I have been a part of Ubuntu since the Icelandic volcano gave me an unexpected week in Kenya in 2010. I became a donor right away after seeing the Ubuntu development model. After Ubuntu, I was inspired to study for a Master's in Nonprofit Management and understand holistic community development on a deeper level; I was excited to join the board. Now it's such an honor to help Ubuntu grow in any way I can.
Speaking of growing, Ubuntu has grown quite a bit since you first became involved. What has that been like to watch and be a part of?
Oh my gosh, this summer, seeing the new Children's Wellness Centre for the first time brought me to tears. When I first came to Ubuntu in 2010, I was just starting my development work. I had already seen some failed and flawed development models abroad, and it was so refreshing to meet a community with authenticity, dignity, and interconnectedness as core values. Ubuntu's growth feels mind-blowing to witness. The feeling that in sharing myself and my community, we got to be a small part of helping this growth makes me feel astounding joy. Seeing the kids have a real school building to go to every day. Just WOW, WOW, WOW!!
Throughout the years, I have taken the Ubuntu school photos, and each year I witness the staff and understand the needs of the individual child a bit better, and this year they were so in sync with each child's needs. The kids all seemed so proud of their new uniforms and themselves. It felt so awe-inspiring to witness the growth of these children and the staff firsthand. There has been so much incredible growth for Ubuntu and Maai Mahiu in the past 12 years, and I believe that we will see the clinic grow in even more remarkable ways in a few short years.
You were at the grand opening of the new CWC - tell us about your experience and what the new center means to the kids and community.
The new Centre is a big win that came from so much BIG LOVE. I brought my daughter for her 3rd time to Kenya to be part of the celebration. I got to watch her dance in Maai Mahiu town square with the Ubuntu Kids, and the feeling of connecting my daughter with Ubuntu is always big, but this day, the feeling was that of tremendous joy. Watching the community come together, the parade, and the outright gladness of everyone celebrating was just so fun. It was such a phenomenal moment for the kids, the families, the Ubuntu staff, and the whole community. I stood for a second, gazing at the building just in absolute awe that it was real.
In your opinion, what are the biggest things the new center is offering that the old Centre couldn't?
Aww yes, now what can we do with the new wellness Centre? The answer is so much. First off, the kids have their own physical therapy room, large classrooms, indoor plumbing, and even a lunchroom. After 15+ years of not having these things for the school, it is such a relief to see how quickly the kids have settled into the school. We still need a disability-friendly playground, but that is coming very soon. The Pediatric Wellness Centre can now host neurology clinics for our 260 epileptic patients, maternal health clinics, and general wellness. We are still in need of so much equipment, but with the life force of the Ubuntu community behind us, I believe it is only a matter of time and some hard work raising the funds till Ubuntu is one of the most renowned pediatric health centers in Kenya. Our dreams of always offering more have led us to this building, and it is the same dream that will lead us beyond this dream to the next.