Jim Cummings, President and CEO of Kijana, distributes new backpacks with school supplies to the students.
Local history teacher James “Jim” Cummings has been promoting youth empowerment locally and globally since 1987 and recently opened the doors to the Kijana Global Innovation School, a preschool and elementary school in western Kenya.
After college, Cummings came to WorldTeach and ended up on the other side of the world teaching English in Kenya. He lost the comfort of living in the first world, lived and volunteered for 15 months with no electricity or running water, and learned the value of the intercultural dialogue and education that represented his journey over the past three decades.
During his career as an educator, Cummings taught at the Prairie School in Wisconsin and the Benjamin School and Seminole Ridge High School here in Palm Beach County. He also earned his Masters in History and studied both African History and Kiswahili, the official language spoken in Kenya. Cummings’ continued studies expanded his knowledge of the continent’s rich history and gave him the opportunity to build a larger network of contacts in Africa to help found the Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative in 2002 with co-founder Bruce Huber.
Kijana is a non-profit organization that has played a pivotal role in transforming education in Vihiga County, western Kenya. Investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, Kijana transformed education and raised citizens’ expectations by investing in more than 30 schools across the country. Partnerships and financial support from Palm Beach County community members transformed some Kenyan schools from rundown remains into thriving institutions.
Kijana’s vision, led by a diverse board of directors, continues to enliven the educational experiences of global youth so that more of the hundreds of millions of young people in need of larger and more creative educational opportunities can find them. With this in mind, the nonprofit launched a capital campaign in May 2019 to build a modern independent school for 12th grade children, the Kijana Global Innovation School (KGIS), serving highly talented Kenyan youth.
To make this vision a reality, local philanthropists Stephanie and John Pew made a large donation to support Kijana. “After initially giving $ 100,000, we gave another $ 100,000 six months later. We were so moved to see how many students will benefit from the new Kijana school for so little compared to rich countries and how much Kenyan students and families appreciate it, ”said the Pews.
It raised $ 310,000 in 2019, and the school opened with 15 students in January 2020. There were 28 students enrolled as of March 2020, and then the whole country was closed because of the global pandemic. During the shutdown, the Kijana team made great strides in the school’s physical development. KGIS reopened in January 2021 with 54 students in preschool through sixth grade. Today around 84 students are enrolled and climbing.
This new school serves students in the counties of Kakamega, Vihiga and Siaya, which have a total of three million people.
Its a lot to do. Kijana is aiming to raise $ 450,000 by 2021, and the nonprofit is about a third of the way to get there. A new campaign will raise money to build a library / media center in addition to the need for more classrooms, technological resources, books, a dining area, more staff, sports fields and a playground. “Human society suffers from the inadequate use and fulfillment of significant human capital by our traditional socio-economic and global education systems,” said Cummings. “The first Kijana Global Innovation School is investing creatively and energetically in this underutilized global human capital and improving our collective global well-being. Your expanded opportunity will be the world’s win when these young people live up to their academic, social, and creative pledges and become positive world changers. “
More information or financial support can be found at www.kijana.org.