Founded in 2002
Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative, a non-profit organization, promotes and cultivates youth empowerment through educational development, cross-cultural dialogue, and sustainable and environmentally friendly economic growth, among under-served Kenyan school communities and American school communities.
Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative (Kijana) grew from a transformative experience as a volunteer teacher with WorldTeach, by Kijana President, James P. Cummings in 1987-88. Through inspired storytelling as a History and Social Studies teacher at the Benjamin School, in North Palm Beach, FL over a decade later, a new collaboration emerged. Students at The Benjamin School and Jim Cummings, a Social Studies teacher, raised tens of thousands of dollars from 1998-2001, toward creating a unique partnership between American and Kenyan community members. The funds were invested in a variety of infrastructure developments at Ebusiloli and Essaba and in bringing Mr. Abel Kutai, a Kenyan teacher to Florida to teach as a visiting teacher. Kijana was founded in 2002 to expand the efforts inaugurated in the 1998-2001 era. During the 2003-2019 era, Kijana invested in over 30 primary and secondary schools in several regions of Kenya and developed a pilot Global Student Summit (2010) in which students in schools in Kenya connected with students at The Benjamin School, to address global water issues. Our flagship school of that era, Mwituha, was reborn in 2006, as a result of our investments, and now has over 500 students. Kijana President, Jim Cummings, also orchestrated the visits of over 50 Americans to the Kijana beneficiary school communities during this time period. 2020 began a new era in which we opened the first Kijana Global Innovation School, in Mulusi Village, Sabatia-Butere, Kakamega County, Kenya. At the beginning of 2023, over 170 students were learning at the beautiful campus, which continues to grow and develop. Students are developing skills in exploration, discovery and innovation and the community is grateful and energized.
Founded in 2002
When you support a student’s education, you are doing more than helping that student; you’re helping their family and their community reach new heights and stability. We believe your student could be the next community leader or president of Kenya.
We have different levels of support which will not only get you updates on how your scholar is doing but will greatly improve your student’s education; these support levels come in partial tiers ($100, $250, $500, $1000) and full support ($2000). See more about these tiers and what comes with them on our website at kijana.org/sponsor-a-scholar
At Kijana, full education support and school fees cover everything, from graduation caps to all the details in between. To begin with, this includes hot meals, transportation, school supplies, uniforms, graduation, and enrollment fees for the year. This also includes the best bits and pieces that make school, well, fun! Like paint for murals, arts and crafts, festival and celebration supplies, field trips, gardening needs, and more. Our students can’t wait to return to school and that’s due, in large part, to the fine details in providing a quality education.
And when you sponsor a child’s full school fees and education, you aren’t just supporting them– you’re supporting the people that nurture, teach, and make their dreams possible. These are their neighbors, their protectors, their advocates, and their mentors, because no quality education is possible without quality and caring teachers and community leaders. You are additionally enabling a family in-need to send their child to Kijana’s Global Innovation school at absolutely no cost to them. This also enables Kijana to have a more economically diverse student body.
With your support, Kijana and our students can reach new heights and become true scholars.
Kijana Global Innovation School
Kijana's Junior Secondary School
Kenya’s government modified the educational structure of the national school system last year, creating a new Junior Secondary system, for 7th-9th grades. Consequently, we moved quickly and constructed a new two-story building as the core structure for our Junior Secondary School. Our expert and volunteer team of Harpreet Dhaliwal and Christopher Dameron provided valuable insights into the site plan and design. We began construction at the beginning of October. Under the leadership of Kijana School Director, and Construction Project Manager, Ebby Shiroya Cummings, the building was constructed in a little over four months. In early February, students and teachers began learning within its classrooms. It incorporates four large, open classrooms with much natural light, and a spacious multi-purpose room.
Visionary Educational Hub Planned
Library, Media Center, and Amphitheater
Our next major physical addition to the school will be a beautiful library, media center, and amphitheater. We are fortunate to have received pro-bono guidance from two award-winning New York architects, Harpreet Dhaliwal, Principal at BKSK Architects, and Chris Dameron, Founder of Dameron Architecture, who are jointly leading the design team.
With their collaboration, a library committee held many design meetings to create a visionary building plan which is appropriate to the local setting and for creative and cooperative learning. Dhaliwal and Dameron visited the school and community in February 2022, learning about the site and materials and collaborating with our local key architect, Jeremiah Awori, and other members of the Kijana team and community.
Care, Share, and Explore Program
As part of Kijana’s deep and long-lasting commitment to environmental sustainability, we are in the process of implementing a unique experiential environmental education program, entitled “Care, Share, and Explore.” We are developing a wide-ranging program providing students with the opportunity to explore the outdoors through an experiential education initiative.
Kijana is going “to battle” to save our planet with our next generation of world change-makers. Our students will develop values of caring for all of God’s creations: inhabitants (plant, animal and human) sharing the earth and caring for each other.
Our Impact in Numbers
Anthem Award Winner
"Care for the world, share it, and explore it." - James P. Cummings
On February 15th, 2023 the 2nd Annual Anthem Awards were announced. Kijana is proud and humbled to share that we were honored as a Silver Award winner in the Community Engagement category for Sustainability, Environment and Climate, for our 2021-22 “Care, Share, and Explore” program. The Anthem Awards annually celebrate purpose and mission driven work of people, companies and organizations worldwide that impact and inspire others to take action in their own communities. Kijana is among other awardees, including World Economic Forum, Stanford University, National Geo, Forbes, When We All Vote, founded by Michelle Obama, Google, CNN, Gabrielle Giffords, Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani, and many others. You can learn more on the Anthem Awards website about the Care, Share, and Explore program that served as the main impetus of this distinguished honor.
The Anthem Awards invited winners to develop a one-sentence speech that reflects our winning endeavor. Kijana’s President and Executive Director said, “Care for the world, share it, and explore it.” This is the essence of what our unique program encourages. Care, share, and explore are symbiotic. Without our planet, we have no life. Our lives would not be possible without our human family and exploration and discovery allow us to grow and prosper and appreciate life.
Kijana is one vehicle that drives this spirit of progress and allows for the good works to become a reality. Thank you to our entire team who made the first year of our “Care, Share, and Explore” program so successful. Much appreciation too to our collaborative connections, including Samantha Koches, founder of Nourish All, Steven Otieno, founder of Cadif Kenya, Mildred Acosta, teacher at Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach, and Bilha Meraba, teacher at Buchenya Primary School, in Buchenya Kenya. Most of all, thanks again to the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters, of Wheaton, Il, who funded the program, and Pat Favire, who serves as a volunteer advisor and consultant and who helped us craft and implement the program.
Kijana Heroes Poster Series
Kijana’s values are rooted in an appreciation for history, a strong desire to place ourselves within the 200,000 year human story as well as recognize that we, as humans, share this earth with others in the animal world.
We have a responsibility to care for and share with others, human and non-human. We aim to find allies in history, those who have shared their wisdom and example with us by their change making actions. As we collaborate with our peers, we collaborate with those who have come before us, through seeking an understanding of their ideas and implementing them for societal improvement.
Claire Salmon, a Palm Beach County resident and Graphic Artist has developed a series of Kijana Heroes posters, some of which we have displayed in the administration building of the school. More posters will be displayed in classrooms. We are exploring additional avenues to share them with other school communities, following up on some school donations in 2019, prior to our Covid-19 challenges.
As we encourage our students to care, share and explore, we model the principles of caring, sharing and exploring. We venture out to venture in. Kijana has begun distributing them to a few educational institutions in Kenya and the United States and Colombia.
Kijana Heroes Poster Series News
Annually, February commemorates Black History Month. In 2022, Kijana celebrated by creating the Kijana Heroes series which was presented at various schools and community venues in honor of Black History Month. We had 40 figures in our Kijana Heroes Poster collection–a set of art pieces featuring inspiring and world-changing Black figures. Each poster portrays inspirational historical and contemporary figures. The collection is intended to serve as an interactive educational tool that will inspire and serve as a catalyst for cross-cultural development. Kijana and Ms. Salmon will continue their important work by expanding the current collection with more noteworthy characters who reflect the spirit of a Kijana Hero. In 2023, Kijana’s current series consists of 60 Kijana Heroes posters.
Thanks to Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, a Florida-based law firm, Kijana Heroes were featured at 11 schools across Florida as well as local cultural centers, providing an enriching educational art exhibit.
In 2022, posters were displayed privately at: Bak Middle School of the Arts, The Benjamin School, Oxbridge Academy, Rosarian Academy, St Vincent Ferrer School, and Leon High School and Holy Comforter Episcopal School in Tallahassee.
The public viewed the series at the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County and the Riviera Beach City Hall.
The Kijana Heroes poster series distribution and displays have been made possible by the generosity of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, Stephanie and John Pew, and Arcadia Books.
Watch this brief video to understand some of the impact of Kijana’s two decades of work in western Kenya, and particularly the impact on the Mwituha Community. The Success Stories Video profiles two students, Helen and Duncan, and their daily life as students. Enjoy a glimpse of life in rural western Kenya and Kijana’s significant impact on the wider region.
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