Empowering Youth

Reshaping Communities 

Transforming Lives

Founded in 2002

Our Mission

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 Named Anthem Award Finalists

For the second year in a row, Kijana has been honored by The Anthem Awards for our purpose and mission-driven changemaking work. Earlier in 2023, we were the recipient of a Silver Anthem Award for our “Care, Share, and Explore” program in the category Community Engagement within the framework of Sustainability and Climate.

In early December, Anthem announced finalists for the 3rd Annual Awards, and Kijana has been selected within THREE  categories – TWO within Education, Art, and Culture and another for Sustainability, Environment, and Climate.

The Anthem Awards have recognized:

  1. The Kijana Global Innovation School
  2. The “Care, Share, and Explore” program
  3. The Kijana Heroes Poster series

 

Update: Kijana Wins Silver

Kijana Recognized with SIX Anthem Awards

“Through sharing and exploring, we learn, find appreciation, and grow toward a better world.” – James P. Cummings

For the second year in a row, Kijana is a winner in the Anthem Awards, an annual competition, which recognizes “purpose and mission driven work throughout the world.” This year, Kijana won THREE Silver Awards. We have been recognized in the realms of Education, Arts and Culture, and Sustainability, Environment and Climate. The Anthem Awards, produced by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), recognized the Kijana Global Innovation School, our Care, Share, and Explore Program, and our Kijana Heroes Poster Series.

Additionally, we won the Community Voice Awards for each of our entries in their respective categories. The Community Voice Awards (full list of winners) were awarded to the organization that rallied the most individuals in their support base to vote for them. Because of our deep grassroots relationship building in Kenya over a few decades, multitudes of our beneficiaries worked to respond with votes for Kijana

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

Our Work

Sponsor-A-Scholar

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 newest and most exciting venture is the creation of our own independent school. We are developing a creative, visionary and collaborative curriculum in an architecturally unique setting. Students will be inspired and nurtured to fulfill their potentials and will be prepared to advance to the next stage academically and with confidence, global understanding, and the individual and collaborative skills to compete and contribute in a challenging and engaging world. Kijana’s world class institution will also be a venue for international collaboration as educators and students from other countries, including the United States, will be invited to visit, learn and share in a beautiful and culturally interactive environment.

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

1,335,916 Trees Grown
32,000+ Children and Adults Served
43 Schools Included and Supported
29 Collaborative Enviro-Expeditions Completed

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

"We want to make our community and beyond aware of these figures who have 'lit the way' intellectually, socially, and culturally and inspire schools and entities to use the posters as an intellectual tool--to make an impact beyond Black History Month."

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.

Success Stories

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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