Meet the Afridrille and Twiga Afridrilles – Africa’s very own handmade, envy-inducing espadrilles. Not only are they highly durable, insanely handsome and slipper-like in comfort, but they are also the most powerful social impact shoe we have come across. They also directly provide health, education and employment to disabled children and their families.
Cut, pinned, sewn, stitched and ironed by over 80 ‘Maker Mums’ in the small Kenyan town of Maai Mahiu on the edge of the Great Rift Valley, Afridrilles are handmade with love.
The journey begins back in 2002 when American medic Zane Wilemon travelled to Kenya and struck up a friendship with Kenyan pastor Jeremiah Kuria. Shocked and saddened by the lack of understanding, social stigma and mistreatment towards children with disabilities, they co-founded Ubuntu Special Needs Centre (USNC). Services for disabled children in Kenya are virtually non-existent, so the centre provides therapy, education and medical care to these marginalised families.
Over the following years, the mothers of these children, (who had previously been sole carers, hidden at home and shunned by society), had time on their hands and wanted work. And so, ‘Ubuntu Made’ was born: nine initial Maker Mums sewing beautiful, high-quality products with profits supporting USNC.
UBUNTU means ‘I am, because we are’. Each item has its own little story. It also has a positive impact on the community who produces it.
— Giraffe Manor Shop
Today, the Maker Mums are 80 strong and growing; a team of empowered and respected women acting as beacons for change in their local community. Over half of Ubuntu Maker Mums own their own house or land, (this figure is less than one percent nationwide) and many are now landladies or small business owners.
The growth and impact of Ubuntu has been phenomenal. They now have three non-profit businesses which directly fund the centre: Café Ubuntu, launched in 2013 with Whole Foods Market; Ubuntu Water, selling their own sustainable bottled spring water; and the original Ubuntu brand selling gorgeous handmade accessories. A small team of Maasai women have also joined the ‘Maker Mums’ to add traditional beading to many of the products. One hundred percent of Ubuntu employees have access to health insurance and one hundred percent can send their children to school.
Underneath each shoe, a map of Africa pinpoints Kenya, marked by a heart to show the heart and ‘sole’ that goes into each and every Afridrille
Our handsome new Afridrilles - the latest Ubuntu Life product and one which will help fund a new paediatric wellness centre. Two years in the making, the attention to detail in every aspect of this shoe is impressive and connects deeply to the makers and their homeland. Each Afridrille contains a line of stitching and a beaded embellishment at a 36-degree angle, which represents Maai Mahiu’s position at 1° South, 36° East of the equator. We think that’s pretty cool.
Visiting the Ubuntu community in Maai Mahiu and witnessing what they are achieving together was deeply moving. Their model of social impact is so powerfully self-sustaining and community led, that it is visibly breaking the poverty cycle and creating a culture of lasting positive change. Their ethos of ‘inch wide, mile deep’ really rings true.
Become a part of the Ubuntu story, changing lives and futures in Kenya.