Ubuntu Life grew out of a friendship between Jeremiah Kuria and Zane Wilemon, pastors from Kenya and Texas. Meeting weekly over lunch in Maai Mahiu, a transit hub an hour outside Nairobi, they talked about faith, growth, and empowerment. Together they created a center for children with disabilities, providing life-changing therapy and medical care for kids who suffer from physical challenges and social stigma.
Caring for these children had been a full-time job for their mothers. Soon their Mums started a new conversation with Jeremiah and Zane: “Now that our kids are out of the house, can you help us do something productive with our time?”
Ubuntu Life started in 2011 with nine Maker Mums and a 15 foot by 15 foot rented room filled with manual Singer sewing machines. Our first products were simple and easy to master: shopping bags, coffee sleeves, bandanas, and coasters. Soon we purchased 11 acres of land on the outskirts of Maai Mahiu, rehabilitated it with native trees, plants and landscaping, and built our Maker Mum Sewing Studio.
In 2012 we began working with a group of Maasai craftswomen in the Ngong Hills. These women, our Maasai Maker Mums, create beautiful beadwork in their spare time under an acacia tree, chatting with their neighbors. We provide them with access to income in a way that is supportive of their culture and lifestyle.
We launched our Cafe with the support of Whole Foods Market in 2013, and added our water bottling plant in 2015. Our Maker Mums soon began producing more sophisticated products that allow us to earn more revenue and pay higher wages. Our first shoe, the Afridrille – made in collaboration with Zazzle Heart – launched in May of 2018 on Kickstarter.
Ubuntu Life PBC, a public benefit corporation, was founded in 2019 to empower the creation of these beautiful products for sale in Kenya and internationally, providing members of our community with sustainable employment. Ubuntu Life Foundation, the charitable organization which is focused on providing pediatric health and special needs education across the region, is our primary impact partner.