Empowering, educating and providing for children without being limited by borders.
PHILOSOPHY & BACKGROUND
The CHI Academy was born out of CHI’s conviction that education is essential to the advancement of a society and its wish to ensure that all children receive an education, regardless of where they are born, so they have a chance to help move their societies forward.
As a practical matter, the CHI Academy came into existence in 2016 as a result of the efforts of its founder, Jordan Burns, who, when about to graduate from UC Berkeley, had visited Kenya on a study abroad program in 2010. He was profoundly affected by his experiences there, particularly his observations of the intense desire for education on the part of Kenyan children and their families. Burns returned to Kenya in 2011 and spent a year there, learning whatever he could and getting involved in efforts to provide more children with educational opportunities.
Over time, these efforts progressed from simply providing children with a range of school supplies (purchased with the limited funds that CHI was initially able to raise) to the founding of an elementary school about 15 miles (25 kilometers) outside Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
Fundraising for CHI and its Academy (and other programs, notably its Summer Abroad program) has grown rapidly and is focused on an ever-larger group of supporters in Jordan’s home town of Sebastopol, California, and nearby communities in Sonoma and Napa counties.
WHAT THE ACADEMY DOES
Our goal is to provide quality care and learning, and to expose our children to an extremely child-friendly environment and curriculum.
On top of a basic curriculum that includes math, science, history, etc., the CHI Academy’s approximately 200 K-8 students work on hands-on projects in- and outside the school. The Academy has a garden where the children learn, plant, harvest, and eat what they grow. Our goal is expand the school garden enough to supplement student lunches with their own fruits and vegetables. We also give students opportunities to expand learning beyond the basics, for example with wide-ranging discussions on topics such as ways to alleviate poverty. And thanks to Kenya’s plentiful sunlight – and our desire to foster environmental awareness – we hope to undertake a solar energy project in the future.
The Academy runs on a unique, self-sustaining model. Two-thirds of the students attend the school either free or at a significantly reduced price. At least one-fourth attend completely free and have all food, uniforms, books and school supplies provided at no charge. These students come from a background of extreme poverty. Their families would never consider school if it weren’t for the CHI Academy. The remaining third of the student body pays a slightly higher fee, which helps the school subsidize the poorer students.
Our goals are ambitious. Starting simply, we hope to purchase a school bus within the next year. At present, most students must either walk long distances or use problematic public transportation to get to and from school.
Moving to a more ambitious goal, we hope either to purchase the land under our present Academy (we own the building, but not the land beneath it) or buy a nearby parcel to build a state-of-the-art, self-sufficient school, including a secondary school that will allow students to continue their studies. This will meet an important need, since Kenya’s post-primary dropout rate is high.
In fact, we hope to implement a career path for our future secondary students. We would like to focus on opportunities like solar energy management, water and sanitation management, agriculture, and other key poverty-alleviation fields that will give students hands-on experience by the time they graduate. For those who choose to continue their education, our dream is to offer financial assistance with university studies as well.
Why is CHI Academy needed? Because even though public primary school is “free” in Kenya (secondary school is not, hence the high dropout rate), “hidden” costs make it prohibitively expensive for many, if not most, families. All public schools require the purchase of uniforms; they don’t provide textbooks, supplies or school lunch; and they charge “exam fees.” What sounds like free ends up costing a single student upwards of $350 to $500 a year. This is a large sum in Kenya where annual per capita income is under $2,000. So school is hard to afford even for one child, let alone two or three.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHI ACADEMY AND CHI SUMMER ABROAD
CHI Summer Abroad and CHI Academy enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Summer Abroad participants benefit from the Academy by having a place to implement projects, work with children, get cultural exposure, and experience much else as outlined on the Summer Abroad page. In the same manner, CHI Academy benefits from the visiting American students who come over the summer to help teach local students, broaden their cultural perspective, work on projects, and enhance Academy students’ learning opportunities.
CHI believes strongly that we do not know the answers to everything, and that some solutions may work in certain areas and not in others. We know very well that it is not our place to impose Western ideals on others. We listen to the communities we work in. All our international programs are developed and managed by the community in which they are located.