Kijana’s Summer of Volunteerism

Written by Jim Cummings |

August 16, 2022

Photo descriptions:  Geoffrey Omusula playing a descant recorder, inspired by Andre’ Madison, (feature photo), Samantha and Kijana Care, Share and Explore team member, Prideluck Ubagah, (top left), Mildred Acosta working with students (top right), Santino, Mildred, and Andre’ (bottom left), Andre’ introducing the recorder to students (bottom right). 

A big asante sana (thank you) to five special volunteers: Samantha Koches, Jessica Sun, Mildred Acosta, and her son, Santino, and Andre’ Madison. Each volunteer gave of their time and talents this summer to enrich the lives of Global Innovation students, faculty, staff and the surrounding local communities Kijana serves. In return, they gained valuable cross-cultural skills and awareness which has enriched their lives and which will lift others. All of the partnerships demonstrated Kijana’s commitment to empowering youth, reshaping communities, and transforming lives.

Samantha Koches and Jessica Sun visited the Global Innovation School in May. Samantha is a former student of Kijana President and Executive Director, Jim Cummings, at the Benjamin School, in North Palm Beach, Florida. She recently started her own non-profit, Nourish All, a global nonprofit organization, based in Hawaii, that is dedicated to nourishing communities in need. 

Samantha led the design and implementation efforts to expand the school’s existing garden and to promote permaculture. In addition, she organized an exploratory visit to Josephat Barasa’s (JB) permaculture farm in western Kenya for a group of students from our Global Innovation School and a local public school,  Buchenya primary school. Jessica Sun, a Nourish All Board Member, and attorney assisted Samantha periodically, by collaborating with Kijana team members and aiding in the completion of various projects. 

Samantha’s work has inspired Kijana to make the school into a lush food forest, growing multitudes of fruits and vegetables creating a syntropic micro-paradise, as well as an innovative learning center. She is continuing to collaborate with local people in the community in improving Buchenya primary school’s gardens, among other endeavors.

Mildred Acosta, a primary school teacher at Rosarian Academy in West Palm Beach and her son, Santino visited the Global Innovation School in July. Mildred teamed up with teachers, primarily first grade teacher, Mercy Amoke. Mildred and Santino developed, with teacher Mercy, a hands-on learning program centered around the Dr. Seuss classic, The Lorax. The students then performed a little skit at our small celebratory event, to recognize our collaborative success in growing and planting over 500,000 trees with over 30 other institutions in western Kenya, Kisumu, and Nairobi. Mildred learned much from teacher Mercy. One fun thing teacher Mercy shared and Mildred will incorporate in her teaching is a fun way for students to celebrate or recognize someone’s good work: by giving them a fictitious soda.  See the “take the soda” video. 

Andre’ Madison is a current Kijana intern and an upcoming senior at Lawrence University, in Appleton, WI. He visited the Global Innovation School for 10 days in July. Andre’ is helping to shape a music program at the school and has also developed a preliminary technology plan which will be implemented in stages, in collaboration with the school leadership teams in Kenya and USA. Andre’ hopes to return next summer with friends to volunteer for a more extended period of time. In a strategy session, Andre’ told Kijana President Jim Cummings about descant recorders, as a good way to introduce music skills. Cummings carried over about 30 recorders and Andre’ brought over with him several more descant recorders, to introduce beginning musical skills to the students. He worked with students in teaching beginning recorder skills. Andre’s enthusiastic teaching and sharing has led to more musical learning opportunities, including having Jennifer Sanna (Atisanna) visit the school and teach the nyatiti. Andre’s also aims to introduce the nyatiti to his fellow music community at Lawrence University. 

American Biochemist and cancer researcher Helen Dyer once said, “Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action.These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud.”  The partnerships formed and the substantial voices of the above five special volunteers will have a lasting impact to those they have served. Kijana is proud to have hosted Samantha, Jessica, Mildred, Santino and Andre’ this summer and we thank them for partnering with us to help Kijana live up to its mission of “promoting and cultivating youth empowerment through educational development, cross-cultural dialogue, and sustainable and environmentally friendly economic growth, among under-served Kenyan school communities and American schools.”

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