Our guest this week is Jeremiah Kuria of Maaimahiu, Kenya, the father of three adult children and co-founder of Ubuntu Life, a Non-Governmental Organization and global lifestyle brand that provides economic security to hundreds of families raising children with special needs.
Jeremiah reflects on his growing up in Escarpment, Kenya as the oldest of six children, the cultural differences, his paternal grandfather who was an assistant chief in their village, working in a children’s home in Kenya, and going to school, working and living in Grand Rapids, MI for eight years.
Jeremiah also reflects on the chance encounter in he had in 2000 with Zane Wilemon, a Texas pastor doing missionary work in Kenya and how that friendship led to the creation of Ubuntu Life, a NGO and global lifestyle brand providing economic security to hundreds
of families raising children with special needs.
It’s an enlightening and inspiring story about serving the poorest of the poor and providing meaningful employment to those willing to make the effort to improve their situation.
All on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeremiah-kuria-0396b021/
Website – https://www.ubuntu.life
Tom Couch: To all dads raising a child with special needs, mark your calendar and plan to attend the Special Fathers Network Dad’s Virtual Conference Saturday May 14th. It’s a must attend event for dads looking to learn about the Special Fathers Network, to meet other dads, to gather resources, develop skills, and network with other like-minded dads. Register today at 21stcenturydads.org.
Special thanks to Horizon Therapeutics for sponsoring the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. Working tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics’ mission at horizontherapeutics.com.
Jeremiah Kuria: Because one, I loved working with children, and then when I started working with children with special needs, it was just amazing. My own mother also became disabled. Mom can’t walk, she can’t put one foot in front of the other, she drags them, so she can’t go anywhere. I’m her feet. I take her everywhere she needs to go.
And so this has brought me very close to persons with disabilities, because I understand it firsthand from my home and from people I experienced growing up.
Tom Couch: That’s our guest this week, Jeremiah Kuria, a businessman originally from Kenya, who co-founded a global lifestyle brand providing economic security to hundreds of women worldwide. We’ll hear Jeremiah’s story and more about his life’s work on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. Say hello to host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the Dad to Dad Podcast, fathers mentoring fathers of children with special needs, presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads. To find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help, or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com/groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: Now let’s listen to this fascinating conversation between Jeremiah Kuria and David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with Jeremiah Kuria of Maaimahiu, Kenya, in Africa, a father of three children and co-founder of Ubuntu, a non-governmental organization and global lifestyle brand that provides economic security to hundreds of women raising children with special needs, through the manufacturing of crafts and gift items sold around the world.
Jeremiah, thank you for doing a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Jeremiah Kuria: Yeah, I am glad we could do this.
David Hirsch: You and your wife Mary, have been married for 30 years, and are the proud parents of three children, Hannah, 34, Grace, 28, and Eric, 24. Let’s start with some background. Where did you grow up? Tell me something about your family.
Jeremiah Kuria: Yeah, I was born and raised a small village called Escarpment that is, I would say, about 30 miles north of Nairobi and overlooking the Great Rift Valley. That’s where I was born, went to the primary school there. And for my high school, I would go through the viewpoint area. I walked six kilometers to my high school.
And I was born as the first born—and yeah, I’m glad to be the first born, as the leader of the family.
David Hirsch: That’s fabulous. So I’m sort of curious to know, what did your dad do for a living?
Jeremiah Kuria: Yeah. The only time I remember my dad working is before I was kind of self-aware. He worked in a vegetable processing company. That’s when he was employed. When I was born, and even when I was about to join primary school, my parents moved now to Escarpment. And there he started a restaurant business, which he ran until I graduated from high school. And then I helped him for a year before I joined Bible college.
David Hirsch: And how would you describe your relationship with your dad?
Jeremiah Kuria: My relationship with Dad has been interesting, I would say, one, because my dad was very strict as we grew up. So he would walk in through one door, and me and my brothers would exit the next. But he wanted the best for us. He wanted us to be very disciplined, wanted us to be the best kids.
But I think being the first born, like any other parents, it’s trial and error. He doesn’t even know what to do with you. So I wouldn’t say I had like a great father-son relationship, but I knew what my father wanted of me. That’s how I describe it.
And I came back around after graduating from college, and now I am good friends with my dad. I always check on him. He has different names for me. When he needs something from me, there’s a name. And when he wants to talk about family, he would call me the father of Ann, and all those kind of details.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. It sounds like he had a good work ethic, and he was very disciplined. He had high expectations for you and your brothers and sisters.
Jeremiah Kuria: Very high expectations. Very high expectations. That’s right.
David Hirsch: So what do you think the most important takeaways were from your relationship with your dad? Perhaps something that you’ve tried to incorporate into your own fathering.
Jeremiah Kuria: I would say, just like you said, good work ethics. He cared so much about the community and the relationship with the community. So he wanted you to be on the best behavior, because he valued being somebody in the community.
And so I also get from him, living for other people, because my dad will leave his own work and go help other people. So I’ve learned that from him, that we have a higher purpose and there’s also a great purpose in helping those that live with us.
So those are some of the values I’ve got from him. Working hard was the thing. Nowadays it’s working smart, but working hard was the thing. I remember him telling me we need to dig this ground before we plant potatoes, and he would be there with us making sure we are doing it the right way.
David Hirsch: Well, thanks for sharing. Well, I’m sort of curious to know what if any relationship you had with your grandfathers, first on your dad’s side and then on your mom’s side.
Jeremiah Kuria: Yeah. My grandfather on mom’s side was a bishop of our church, and so lots of spiritual stuff. He is the one who taught me how to read the Bible and made sure that I’m reading it the way it’s written, and he wanted me to learn how to read it in our language. So that was amazing.
I remember him telling me to read Galatians 4 about the inheritance, like, you cannot get your inheritance even if it’s yours, if you are baby. You have to wait until you mature. And I couldn’t read that in our language, so he made sure that I got that one right. And then he always wanted to make sure that I understood right and wrong and make sure that I didn’t intentionally wrong others. And learning to say, “I’m sorry.” Very spiritual stuff that I learned from my grandfather on my mother’s side.
My grandfather on father’s side, on the other hand, was an assistant chief. They used to call him the head man of the village. He was the head man of that village. Very highly respected.
His name was Jeremiah. I’m named after him. And even though I would have wanted to change my name, I couldn’t change my name, because Jeremiah was the name that the people respected in the village. And yeah, what I remember most about my grandfather is that, even if I lost a pen or anything from school, I wouldn’t run to my dad. I ran to my grandfather.
He loved me dearly and wanted the best for me, wanted me to be well educated. He was so proud of me. I remember wearing the hat. In those days they used to wear hats like a crown, like the police officers. That’s what the assistant chiefs used to wear. So I was so proud wearing that, and he loved to see me in that one.
So great memories of my grandfather. He was a disciplinarian, not only for his kids, but also for the kids of the village. That’s how everybody remembers him. Everything I do people say, “Hey, you are just like your grandfather, Jeremiah,” which I appreciate a lot.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s fabulous. And you know, you were named after him, so there’s a special relationship that you have with him, versus your siblings, or maybe his other grandchildren for that matter.
Jeremiah Kuria: Yes, yes. And I’m the oldest of all the cousins, so I am the firstborn of his firstborn son. So I’m the oldest in all the cousins.
David Hirsch: So did you mention in a prior conversation that he had two wives?
Jeremiah Kuria: My grandfather had two wives at the same time. Jokingly they call that one a corporal in the police rank. So you had two ranks. And my grandmother, my dad’s mom, was the oldest, and then there was a younger wife, at the same time. And so when I was self-aware, I remember my grandfather spending lots of time with his younger wife. That’s where he’d have his meals and everything, and he would tell stories and everything. So yeah, he has many children. He has 14 children in total with these two wives.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s not the custom here in the United States that you have two wives at the same time. It’s not uncustomary to be married, and then if your wife passes away or you get divorced, then you might be remarried. But that’s one of the cultural differences between where you grew up and what’s going on here in the States.
Jeremiah Kuria: Yeah, the aspect of polygamy is in the African culture mainly.
David Hirsch: And does it still exist?
Jeremiah Kuria: It has been discouraged, mainly, especially in the Christian circles, because of the emphasis in the Bible. Especially if you want to become a leader, you must be a husband of one wife. But the government just allowed that you can have more than one wife customary. So yeah, you can imagine many men are saying, “Yeah, that’s something.” But women are like, “We don’t like this.”
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it certainly has its pros and cons. Obviously you’re taking on a lot of responsibility, particularly if there’s 14 children, right, like you had mentioned. So the way I think about it is be careful what you ask for.
I’m thinking about other men who were of influence to you, father figures, if you will. And I’m wondering who comes to mind.
Jeremiah Kuria: The person who comes to mind is Reverend David Givaye [?], who I joined after I graduated from Bible college. He took me as one of his sons and made sure that I understood how to get into the job. And he made sure that I knew you can make a mistake. And once you make a mistake, then learn from your mistake and don’t repeat it again.
So he was very committed to training me. He would watch me speak and give me feedback after speaking. He would let me lead meetings. He is a man that I miss. He died five years ago, and I miss him a lot because of all the input he had in my life.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I think you can only look backwards and realize who had that influence. You can only connect the dots looking backwards. It’s hard to imagine when you’re looking forwards, who’s going to have the most influence on you. Thank God for people like David Givaye for the role they played.
So my recollection was that you got your initial education at Moffat Bible College in Kijabe, and you had degrees in Bible and theology. And you went to work in a children’s home in Kenya for the better part of seven or eight years.
Jeremiah Kuria: Nine years.
David Hirsch: Nine years. Okay. And then you decided to pursue some additional education, but not there in Kenya. And I’m wondering, how is it that you transitioned to going to get your additional degrees in Grand Rapids, Michigan?
Jeremiah Kuria: I remember when I got a job in the children’s home. That’s why I worked with David Givaye, the Reverend. I remember when I got there, I became very passionate about working with children, and it was always a joy to serve them. One, because they are in the children’s home because they have no parents or they have a single parent, or they came from very poor families, and I wanted to just support them.
And what I did when I was there is I was answering every knock on the door. I was running up and down to support and to help. And what happened? I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I burned out because I was giving too much and not getting anything.
So I talked to a friend of mine who was already in Grand Rapids. We grew up together. His name is Isaac. And he told me, “I know what you need to do. You need to rejuvenate. And to rejuvenate, I know a school you can go to.” So he was going to Kuyper College, and then it was a Reformed Bible College. And he shared that, “This is a school I would want you to join, and it’ll be amazing for you.”
So I did the whole application for the American visa. I couldn’t get it for the first three attempts. So after the third year is when I got it. And then finally it was time to go to Grand Rapids. And so my connection with Grand Rapids is because there was already somebody there who came from my village.
David Hirsch: Thank you for sharing, and I’m curious to know, was that a cultural shock for you moving from Kenya to the United States? Were there any challenges that you experienced language wise or culturally?
Jeremiah Kuria: My first shock was ice. I got off the car. Nobody ever told me that when it’s snowing and it was warm a little bit, there is ice. So I got out of the car and fell on my butt. I tried to stand, and I couldn’t. That was my first shock.
And then I came from a small village, going to a supermarket was even big. They take me to this supermarket. I cannot even find anything. So I had to depend on other people to tell me, “Okay, you need to go to this aisle.” Even being told an aisle, I was not used to. So language was a barrier.
Big things. Everything in the US was big for me, and there were not many places you would walk to. And then I landed in December, so trying to walk there. I saw sunshine one day and I said, “Oh, this is a good day to walk.” I didn’t have the proper gear for cold, and so I was so cold. So I had a few culture shocks, yes. But after nine years, I got to understand.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. And I’m curious to know, where did your wife Mary come into the picture? Because you’ve been married for 30 years, and you came to the US 2001.
Jeremiah Kuria: Okay. After two years, Mary and the kids joined me. They couldn’t get their visas. We were not trying to look for visas at the beginning, but when I got there, I was missing family, and we started looking for ways to be together. It took lots of efforts to get them to get visas. It was very difficult. But finally they got their visas, and they joined me in April of 2003.
David Hirsch: Yeah. And I’m sort of curious to know, where along the way did you meet Zane?
Jeremiah Kuria: Zane? We had met in Kenya in the year 2000. He was my first close American friend. He came to Kijabe at the mission station where there are lots of missionaries from the US. He was a med tech there, and then he was left in charge of an outreach program.
He came to drop food to the children’s home where I was working, and he connected with me. I didn’t connect with him because I had seen many missionaries come and go. They never returned. They just did what they needed to do, and they disappeared.
But Zane came back and said, “Hey, I realize that you have a lot of work here. Do you need help?” And I said, “I know I need help, but I don’t know what kind of help you can offer.” So that’s when we came up with a brilliant idea of having lunch every Thursday, which we did for a whole year. And that’s how I started experiencing a little bit of American culture there.
But he couldn’t tell me. He used to come with another missionary lady. Very awkward moments. And I would say, “Hey, I want to eat what she eats, because I want to be big like she is.” And, that was bad. That was bad bad. Those are some of the culture shocks. And he is trying to eat what I’m eating, and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to offend me, so he wouldn’t talk about it. We had a few awkward moments, but we made it through.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it sounds like you came from different cultures, but there was this bond that you created over a year of having lunch every week for a year. I’m wondering, where did the idea for creating Ubuntu come as a result of those conversations?
Jeremiah Kuria: Creating Ubuntu came very organically. We visited lots of homes, because he wanted to understand how people lived. So I would lead him to go to different homes. When we are going to those homes, we are listening to stories, and people kept saying all they need is opportunity. They were not looking to be given anything. They were looking for opportunities.
And so this was getting so much into Zane’s heart and his mind. So we kept wondering, “What can we do? What can we do to create opportunities for these people?” And that was when we met this wonderful group of persons with disabilities. They had formed a group, and they invited us to their group. They said, “Hey, you guys, you say you help the poorest of the poor. And here we are, but nobody thinks about us.” It’s like, “I think we’re qualified to work with you guys,” and that’s when it started.
David Hirsch: Well, was this the group of women who had children with special needs?
Jeremiah Kuria: Yes. This was a group of women and men, some of whom were disabled, and they all were mothers or fathers of children with special needs. So they had formed a support group to support each other. These guys didn’t even have identity cards, so they couldn’t even access a hospital because you know, you have to register. So the first thing we did was to get them identity cards, so they could be recognized in the society and have access to services they needed to access.
David Hirsch: So looking back on that, what was your first exposure to individuals with special needs?
Jeremiah Kuria: My first exposure to children with special needs is when I was growing up. I remember we had neighbors, very close friends of ours, and they had a sister who grew up, I think she had some mental retardation and learning disabilities. But I remember her drooling a lot and seeing the siblings not caring for or embracing her. And I was like, wow, that’s different.
And then when I went to primary school, I also engaged another younger man, who just died last year due to Covid. And this boy also had learning disabilities or possibly Down syndrome. I couldn’t understand then what was going on with them. But after working with people with disabilities, I now know all these conditions and the differences.
But Mungai was, very happy, very jovial. He loved everybody, loved hugging everybody. So he was special that way. And we all embraced him. We loved to feed him, because he appreciated it more than anyone else. And he couldn’t do school like everybody else. But he was a joy to have around.
David Hirsch: So you were comfortable being around individuals with disability from a relatively young age. That’s what I hear you saying.
Jeremiah Kuria: Yes, completely. I always tell everybody it was kind of like a calling because, one, I loved working with children, and then when I started working with children with special needs, it was just amazing.
My own mother also became disabled and she can’t walk. She can’t put one foot in front of the other, but she drags them. So she can’t go anywhere. I’m her feet. I take her everywhere she needs to go. And so this has brought me very close to persons with disabilities, because I understand it firsthand from my home and through people I experienced growing up.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well thanks for sharing. And going back to Ubuntu. My understanding was that created a center for children with disability, providing these life-changing therapies and medical care for kids who suffer from physical and social stigma. And did it start out as a grand plan, or was it more organic, like you were saying?
Jeremiah Kuria: Well, very, very organic, I would say, because the mothers approached us. I remember Faith. Faith was disabled herself, and had given birth to three children, a very beautiful girl and two handsome young men. And Faith, as disabled as she was, said, “My only dream is to see a center for children with special needs, because when I was growing up, I was around a lot of stigma and segregation. Nobody knew what to do with me. Nobody cared.”
And so she was desiring to see a center. So we started working with Faith, and she mobilized these children, and we had nine to begin with. And I still remember that the mothers were struggling even to walk along the streets to bring the children to the center because of shame and embarrassment. They would walk on the back streets to bring the children to the center.
So it started very small and very organically. We were not sure what to do. We had three women volunteer to cook for these children so they could have lunch. And we were not even sure what we actually wanted to do, but here we were. The children needed a center so that the mothers could go and do other jobs to take care of their other children.
And slowly we started growing. We had one room, and then we rented another room. Currently, we have taken over the whole space of different rooms to take care of these children.
David Hirsch: So if I understand what you’re saying, getting the moms out of the house where they were taking care of their children, and then their disabled children who were not well accepted in society, was a liberating experience for them. Because they could get out of the house, and their kids could get the attention and medical services that they needed to grow and develop. And then it allowed them to develop a skill and create some economic security for their families.
Jeremiah Kuria: Completely. Completely.
David Hirsch: And how many women are involved? Or how many individuals are involved with the work of Ubuntu, and what type of work do they actually do?
Jeremiah Kuria: When we took the women at the beginning—well, they’re the ones who approached that and said, “Hey, now that you have the children at the center, can you also get us something to do?”
I’m like, “No, no, no. We didn’t sign up for this. But what do you want to do?” And they said, “We want to learn how to sew.” And they had by themselves bought three Singer machines, the treadle machines, but they couldn’t learn how to do it. So we said, “Okay, bring those machines.” They brought the machines. We started training them how to do sewing.
And thankfully we got connected to an American sewing guild, people who are passionate about sewing. They came, and they taught them how to sew aprons, some totes and pillow cases. Yeah, those simple things. And currently I can say we have over 80 or 85 women who are working at the center. Not all of them with children with special needs, but the majority of them. We have known them because of this community of children with special needs.
David Hirsch: Where did the idea for Ubuntu, and then selling these beyond just the local community—how did that evolve?
Jeremiah Kuria: The thing about these women, for two years they couldn’t make anything that you could sell to anybody, because the bags were twisted and everything. But we knew that was not going to be sustainable for a long time. For the first year they were coming, but they were not getting anything. They were just learning.
And then the second year we are like, “Man, they’re here all day, every day. What do they eat?” We started giving them $20 every end of the month. And we realized this was not enough, and it was not sustainable. And so that’s when Zane started looking into how we could make it sustainable. And he approached different people.
He was walking to Whole Foods every week, wanting to sell the bags in there. But instead of getting to sell bags, we made a connection with sending teams in Kenya. Whole Foods said, “Yeah, we are not going to buy your bags, but we can send teams, because we source coffee and tea from Kenya, and we send people to countries where we source products.
So we were blessed that way when Whole Foods started coming. When they came, they met the children with special needs, they met the mothers, and they fell in love. They said, “We need to look for ways to collaborate.” And that’s when they challenged us to come up with a different kind of a product.
We started making coffee sleeves, like when you buy coffee, you put a sleeve on it so you don’t burn your fingers. We said, “Yeah, we can make a coffee sleeve from fabric.” And we did that and they bought the first lot of coffee sleeves. We were so excited to get into Whole Foods to sell our products there. So quite amazing.
David Hirsch: So Whole Foods, the US-based company food stores, played a very instrumental role in helping Ubuntu get focused on creating things that you could sell. So there was a stream of income that you didn’t have prior to that. And I’m wondering, how has it expanded or grown from those initial experiences with Whole Foods?
Jeremiah Kuria: Yeah, it has grown quite a bit, because the women went from making things we couldn’t show anybody to making very high end products. We have made bags that are very high end. If you go to our website, you can see all these things. We make bracelets that people love to wear. We also are making shoes. So they’re making very, very high end products. And this came about because of the introduction by Whole Foods.
So we have found other people like Nordstrom. We made bracelets for them for Valentine’s day, what we call love bracelets. And now we just call them message bracelets, because different customers request different words on their bracelets. They’ll be “Peace,” they’ll be, “Love,” and, “Hope.” Different kinds of messages that we create.
It has been quite amazing. It has opened many doors for us, and now we work with a group called Zazzle. They custom make products, and they helped us to start making custom made shoes and selling them through their online platform. And that has helped us to grow quite a bit.
David Hirsch: Yeah. So on an annual basis, what do you estimate the sales to be?
Jeremiah Kuria: On an annual basis, I would say 2019 would be reflective, because our budget would be like one million US dollars per year. Half of that would come from the revenue from the sale of products, and then the other half we have donors who support the work we do.
And then 2020 came, and Covid came. We were not doing so much online sales, but then our online sales kind of went up very high, which has been amazing. And that’s when we also separated the business from the foundation. And the foundation primarily takes care of children with special needs.
And now the business can run like a business with all the efforts and everything like a business. And we can also invite now investors to come and invest in the business, which we couldn’t do when we were still running it like a nonprofit. So that has worked well for us.
David Hirsch: And, from a diversification or geography standpoint, where do most of the sales come from?
Jeremiah Kuria: The US is our major market, but now that we are doing e-commerce, we are seeing different people from all over the world be able to purchase items. We are actually trying to grow our e-commerce operation, making sure that when somebody orders a product from Kenya, it’s shipped to them directly from Kenya, so it gets to them in a timely manner. So we are working on all those logistics.
We also do local sales in Kenya. We are working on growing that, because it’s, it’s not very high at the moment. We’re working on the price points as well, because some people say, “It’s an expensive bag.” And we say, “Yeah, it’s hand made. So it takes a lot to be able to get that uniqueness. And it’s also for a good cause,” we say.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it’s a win-win situation. You’re creating unique, handmade products and they’re supporting an important mission, which goes beyond just making a profit. Some people think of it as a double bottom line. You know, the business is sustainable. But it’s also benefiting large group of individuals who would not otherwise be benefited.
Well, I love the mission of your organization. I purchased one of those bracelets that has the word Ubuntu on it. And as I understand it, it means, “I am, because we are.”
Jeremiah Kuria: Yes, the interconnectedness of humanity. We are all connected. Whatever you are doing in the US, whatever we are doing in Kenya, we impact one another without knowing it, and so that keeps us united. We say Ubuntu is not just a philosophy, it’s a lifestyle. We need to live united. We need to live, be there for each other. And it’s not a handout, it’s a handshake. It’s like you come with your expertise, I come with my expertise, and we join hands, and we do great things.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I love it. The bug bit me, and yeah, I imagine that I will be singing your praises for the rest of my life.
Jeremiah Kuria: We appreciate that. We appreciate that. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
David Hirsch: So I’m thinking about advice now, because you’ve been around the world of special needs for decades. And I’m wondering, what advice can you offer parents, especially dads, about raising a child with disabilities?
Jeremiah Kuria: That’s a big one. When I hear dads of children in special need, I remember a dad who has been passionate. Not many dads would bring their children to the center, but this gentleman—his daughter’s name was Patience—and he would carry her on his arms every day. She couldn’t walk to the center, and this dad would always come. The dad saw the beauty in this child, and wanted to help his child with live with dignity. He said, “I am going to be the person who is going to do this.”
And that has been very touching for me and even for many other parents. We have heard him share his story with many other parents and especially fathers. And he is like, “This child is my child. She needs to live with dignity, like the other children. She needs to be given opportunities just like others, even though the opportunities may be limited. I need to work as hard as for this child as I work hard for the others.”
It’s a very strong message, because in Africa, I’ll say in Kenya, there is that stigma, if you have a child with special needs, you are cursed and God is not happy with you, and you must be punished. You are being punished for something that you did.
And that stigma has made very many dads to go away from the parenting of their children with special needs. But I would encourage them: it’s worth every effort. The smile from those children and even the appreciation they have, because they may not be able to utter the words, “Thank you,” but they look at you with a smile when you give them time and it’s all telling. It’s like, “Yes, I love that you are here with me.”
And it’s Ubuntu. We are there for each other. And so my goal is to encourage the dads, “Yeah, it may be a difficult task. It is very challenging, and sometimes you don’t even understand the reasons why. But I would say it’s worth every effort. It’s worth every effort.”
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. What is Patience’s dad’s name?
Jeremiah Kuria: I want to say Joseph, but I don’t want to be wrong.
David Hirsch: Okay. Well, I think more important than his name is what he stands for: the commitment that you described that he is made to his daughter, and his philosophy about making sure that each one of his children, including this particular child, lives with dignity and has opportunities.
And if it’s not the parents who are looking out for their child, then who would, really? You know, anything we can do to destigmatize the aspect of growing up with differences is really important, not only there in Kenya, but here in the US as well.
So is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Jeremiah Kuria: I just appreciate this opportunity to share with those that will be listening to the interview that we have an obligation, as people who are blessed, to reach out to others who may not be as blessed as we are or as able as we are, and always to be there for each other. That’s what I would say.
And there are lots of hurts in the world. There’s lots of challenges. But if we are there for each other, we alleviate the pain, and we help each other walk the journey. We just need to be there for each other. That’s all I can say. We need to live Ubuntu in the whole world.
David Hirsch: Well, we’re thrilled to have you as part of the Special Fathers Network. Thank you for your involvement. If somebody wants to learn more about Ubuntu or to contact you, what would be the best way to do that?
Jeremiah Kuria: You can reach us online. We have two websites, one for the foundation, and that is ubuntulife.foundation. And if you wanted to purchase anything from our sister organization, Ubuntu Life, you just go to ubuntu.life, and from there you will be able to get hold of us. And also our phone numbers are all there in the website. You can write an email, and we’ll be happy to connect and to share the efforts and also the challenges that we are going through.
David Hirsch: Well, we’ll be sure to include the email as well as the websites in the show notes. That’ll make it as easy as possible for people to contact you.
Jeremiah, thank you for taking the time and many insights. As a reminder, Jeremiah is just one of the individuals who’s part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father, or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own, please go to 21stcenturydads.org.
Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. As you probably know, the 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free to all concerned. Would you please consider making a tax deductible contribution? I would really appreciate your support.
Jeremiah, thanks again.
Jeremiah Kuria: Yeah, thank you so much.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast. The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs. Through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children match up with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support other dads. To find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org. And
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help, or would like to offer help, we would be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com/groups and search dad to dad. Lastly, we’re always looking to share interesting stories If you’d like to share your story or know of a compelling story, please send an email to email@example.com.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad Podcast was produced by me, Tom Couch. Thanks again to Horizon Therapeutics, who believe that science and compassion must work together to transform lives. That’s why they work tirelessly to research, develop, and bring forward medicines for people living with rare and rheumatic diseases. Discover more about Horizon Therapeutics at horizontherapeutics.com.