These past few months have been a whirlwind for our team, creating highs, lows, and learning experiences to last a lifetime. When we first decided to shift our product production to creating masks, we received an order for 50 THOUSAND masks from our partner Zazzle. This allowed us to kick the production into high gear, mobilizing not just our factory in Maai Mahiu but also reaching out to trusted community partners who were able to un-furlough their workers in order to help us complete the order.
Since Ubuntu Life is committed to serving the world's most vulnerable, we also chose to double down on that commitment by providing masks to those in our community who cannot afford them. For every mask that we have been selling on our website, we have been donating one to someone in need. From patients and their families who attended our pediatric special needs health clinic last month to food bank distribution partners in Nairobi and even our local law enforcement, it has been a joy to spread the Ubuntu love while helping keep our community safe.
The big win through all of this has been being able to keep our Maker Mums & Men safely employed through this uncertain time:
plus 42 part-time staff at Ubuntu Life
(many unfurloughed) in order to ramp up production on the Masks for Africa campaign
received support through Ubuntu Life employment since the beginning of the pandemic
We asked some of the members of this Ubuntu dream team to tell us more about what this experience means:
Finance Director, Ubuntu Life
“The Masks for Africa has been the most impactful project we have done in the last 3 years for several reasons:
It has brought back hope that was shattered when the economy and companies started closing down when COVID-19 started hitting countries across the world. When the pandemic started, we began putting in place worst case scenarios which included letting staff go, but the mask opportunities has turned this round and we have created more employment during the pandemic than we have before. At the EPZ gates, every morning over 1,000 tailors flock to the gates looking for work. Being able to offer jobs to over 100 of them each day has been the least we can do as Ubuntu to ensure their families are fed through this pandemic period.
The masks opportunities have brought out the strength of our Ubuntu culture among our team. Everyone has stepped up so much and owned every challenge that has come our way as we venture into this new line of products. Relocating our team members from Mai Mahiu to EPZ, 80 Kilometers away from their families for weeks was a hard one but the team has been very cooperative and has made the sacrifices to work long hours and into weekends to ensure the masks are done in the best quality.
For the last 5 years since we transitioned from NGO to a social enterprise and now to a Public Benefit Corporation, we have invested a lot in creating and promoting the Ubuntu brand across the globe. Looking for strategic partnerships, collaborations and creating new markets for our products. During that period there have been difficult seasons in getting sufficient orders. But this period has been full of blessings whereby our internal production has been stretched beyond capacity and we have outsourced all the extra business that has come in.
We appreciate the value of partnerships and collaborations we have built over years among our suppliers, clients, Tribe and staff. All this wouldn't have been possible without them!”
Cafe Ubuntu Manager
“Whew! The Masks for Africa campaign has been an interesting process that took us through a steep learning curve from planning and strategizing to execution. We were able to engage a company under EPZ (Export Processing Zone) which is well known by high quality products for companies like Calvin Klein, Nautica, Wrangler, Tommy Hilfiger, etc. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to deliver on promises because we were the ‘little guy’ and they were focused on larger brands which led to delays in our production. We did, however, find a new partner to help us expand our capacity for the masks campaign. Through these highs and lows we learned quite a bit which has enlightened us on our future orders.
Meanwhile, government restrictions affected the mask production process in a huge way since it was no longer possible for companies to hire people to work after the curfew, so companies - including the printers and stitching companies - could only commit to a small number of people in the stitching department which ended up giving very small output from the initial projections.
Despite the challenges, I am incredibly honored to be part of the team crushing COVID-19. This situation has trained me to appreciate and approach everything positively - focusing on the brighter side of life. Being part of a mask making team with such a great company in Africa, I have been able to appreciate the spirit of Ubuntu - understanding that we all need each other in life and we can't exist without each other. What a great way to approach life!
At this particular time, most of the institutions are closing down while Ubuntu is creating new jobs helping families to put food on the table. This is what Ubuntu is all about!”
Ubuntu Life Sales Representative
“I am so thankful for this opportunity it has been a journey full of new experiences. This current situation of COVID is the most fulfilling and motivating drive for me when thousands are fighting for their survival by all means. A friend in need is a friend indeed! I believe that the success of anything founded on teamwork has been and will be forever a great pillar in my work mission.
I am proud that the orders we are processing right now have provided jobs for both locals, who are now supporting their families, and for us the Ubuntu Life team in Kenya who are thankful to still have our empowered jobs with Ubuntu even if they have been different these past few months! The whole process has taught me to live by Mother Teresa's quote -" Small things done with great love will change the world.”