Tribe Stories: Elaine

Elaine McKellips

Elaine is a travel photographer for nonprofits/social impact businesses and brands.
 
Sharing stories of love and empowerment through her photos is her passion.  Find more of her work here.

This past July I traveled with Ubuntu to Kenya for 8 days.  We visited the mums at the Ubuntu workshop, camped with the Maasai tribe (I’ve never seen so many stars!), spent the day with the children at the special needs school, and went on a safari.  I’ve been working in the nonprofit industry for the past couple years, and I think it’s a place where you should never stop learning and growing.  To be honest, you’re exposed to a lot of disheartening things in this industry. I think a lot of times we step into other cultures and assume that we know what they need - this idea that they need to be “fixed” or that their way of life should be more like ours.

But Ubuntu is doing something different.  Ubuntu’s mission is to create a self-sustaining model for development by using entrepreneurial programs to grow its non-profit initiatives and empower communities to create the change.  That last part — that’s the difference.  Ubuntu is creating opportunities for its mums, Maasai tribe members, and special needs children to thrive and to create their own futures. 

Ubuntu isn’t just a nonprofit that’s working in the Maai Mahiu village.  They’re part of the village – part of the community. The mums, the special needs children, and the Maasai women are all so proud to work there.  It’s that concept of “inch wide, mile deep” social impact. They’ve immersed themselves in this community in a way that has resulted in genuine connection, and I believe that’s where you start to see sustainable change in nonprofit work.

 

One of my most memorable moments from the trip was camping for a couple nights with the Maasai tribe.  We shared meals, sat around the campfire, laughed together, and even taught the Maasai how to make s’mores.  At one point in the night, there were translations happening from Maasai to Swahili to English. Two groups of people coming together whose cultures are so drastically different from one another – it was beautiful.

This trip was the kind of experience that sets your heart on fire to continue to seek to give back in this world. 

I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Ubuntu and the communities they serve.