Kate Cummings

Kate Cummings (Vital Voices in Kenya): Kate was born in the North Carolina mountains, and received her BFA in photography at Sewanee (The University of the South) in 2004. Kate co-founded a meditation group at the Hampshire County Jail in North Carolina where she led meditation sessions with inmates each week. Upon graduation, Kate was awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. This allowed her to spend a year photographing in India, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and France. During this year, she photographed Zen Master and international peacemaker Thich Nhat Hanh's first return to Vietnam since his exile 39 years before. Her images were published internationally. She returned to Vietnam in 2007 with Nhat Hanh and his International Peace Delegation to photograph healing ceremonies. Kate moved to western Massachusetts and began teaching photography to at-risk girls. At the time of her fellowship, Kate was studying for her master’s degree at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston. After her fellowship, Kate wrote: “Best experience? This is an impossible question! I think, that by spending so much time with Kenyans in their homes and families and in the community setting… I gained a deep understanding of their successes and their significant challenges...I look at myself now as having the potential to be as strong and caring as the amazing women I met in Kenya.”

The Gift of an Unwritten Future

05 Sep

In this interview, Kakenya Ntaiya talks about the freedom she has found in education.  Tracing her path back to childhood, Kakenya remembers her family hardships and the constricting nature of traditional Maasai values on her future.  But Kakenya was not going to accept her family’s selection of a husband-to-be for her at age five; and she was certainly not going to let generations of ritual and multiple father-figures with a limited perception of her potential stand in the way of her own dream.  Instead, Kakenya – with the support of her mother – rallied together the very community that resented her independence and convinced them to send her to college in the US.  Now, less than a year away from finishing her PhD in international education, Kakenya is still dreaming – but this time, for her entire village.


Interview by: Kate Cummings. Location: Enoosaen, Kenya. Partner: Vital Voices, 2009.

Posted By Kate Cummings

Posted Sep 5th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Brooke Marchewka

    February 8, 2010


    Hello Ms. Cummings,

    My name is Brooke Marchewka and I am a student at Masconomet Regional High
    School in Boxford, Massachusetts. I have started a club at my school
    which is working toward donating 100 XO laptops from the non-profit
    organization One Laptop Per Child to students in Africa. I have recently
    come into contact with Kakenya through a mutual contact from Kenya. Our
    club (called the Global Initiative Volunteers Club) is now looking toward
    donating the laptops to the girls at Kakenya’s Center for Excellence. We
    hope to deliver the laptops to Kenya on a two-week long trip in February

    I spoke on the phone with Kakenya and she suggested I contact you, as you
    visited her school and you are from the U.S. I would love to speak with
    you concerning your experience at the school. One of the largest hurdles
    our club faces is having this trip to Kakenya’s Center for Excellence
    approved by the School Committee. I would like to learn more about the
    school and convince the committee that this is not a dangerous place to

    Kakenya sent me a link to your blog for the Advocacy Project and I read
    your profile about your accomplishments in photography as well as helping
    others. I think what you are doing is wonderful. I hope to have the
    opportunity to speak with you.

    Brooke Marchewka
    President of the Global Initiative Volunteers (GIV) Club

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