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.”

Uniform Euphoria

12 Aug

We have made it.  This is a milestone.  We have matching, freshly starched uniforms for the thirty-one girls attending Kakenya’s School of Excellence.

School Uniform shopPhoto: Kate Cummings. Location: Eldoret, Kenya. Partner: Vital Voices

Don’t be fooled by the manifestation of this baby-step in the revolution.  In fact, be convinced by it: with the simple gift of one plaid jumper, maroon sweater, pair of tan knee-socks, patent-leather shoes, and cream collared shirt, you will see each girl lengthen her spine to hold back her shoulders and smile with the confidence that she is, in fact, a miracle.  And I bet you some exorbitant amount of Kenyan shillings she will also do better in her studies – because it is clear someone is invested in her, and she is worth that investment.

Kakenya shows off her school's very own uniformPhoto: Kate Cummings. Location: Eldoret, Kenya. Partner: Vital Voices

Beaming for her girlsPhoto: Kate Cummings. Location: Eldoret, Kenya. Partner: Vital Voices

Kakenya understood the gravity of this moment, and she was silenced by it (save this little clip just before her descent into disbelieving quiet).  She has completed one large orbit of her goal, one of the first rings of her Saturn.  This ring started with one fundraising event after another, visits to Vital Voices in DC, more and more time away from her son and husband, her dissertation; then it was a long trip last summer, another this February, and now one month back in her Kenyan home to see how the girls of her school – “her children” – are growing.  And during this packed month, Kakenya has taken an eight-hour matatu to the large town of Eldoret (“that’s too busy, like New York City”) and spent the whole day personally seeing to it that each girl has every piece of this elaborate outfit that leaves will eventually, on the dirt roads of Enoosaen town, leave all onlookers without a doubt in their minds: this girl is going somewhere.

Now, maybe,  you can see the multiplier effect behind the demure uniform Kakenya holds up in this short video.  You should have been there: adding rings to a planet is worth witnessing (and worth doing).


Video: Kate Cummings. Location: Eldoret, Kenya. Partner: Vital Voices

Posted By Kate Cummings

Posted Aug 12th, 2009


  • philip

    August 26, 2009


    Thank you for your continued support to the marginalised people in the society.
    I would also invite you to venture in Central kenya and in particular Kieni east district there are so many squatters who need capacity building and basic needs such as ownership.
    Please visit our site and see ways of working closely.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thanks and God bless you.

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