Local nonprofit leader builds beacon of hope for African slum children

Jordan Minns does work on the land he purchased in Kenya in preparation for construction of his school. Jordan Minns

For the young residents of Kenya’s Giotto slum, Jordan Minns is seeking to be a catalyst for change.

Minns, a 24-year-old Canyon Country resident who created the nonprofit LOV Movement, is building an educational and living facility on 7 acres of undeveloped land he purchased just outside of Nakuru, Kenya, about an hour away from the slum. Two acres of that land will be dedicated as a school and housing facility for children 4 to 8 years old, and the rest will be dedicated to agriculture to feed the children and to sell to finance the school.

According to Minns, about 140 families live in the Giotto garbage dump slum, and about 70 percent of those residents are children who spend most of the day unsupervised and often fall victim to disease, sexual abuse, domestic abuse and other dangers. 

“These kids literally live in a garbage dump, where they have to deal with danger. So our hope is to be able to move them out to this living facility, where they can live and learn safely and go on to more productive futures,” Minns said. “Initially my partner, Anthony Njoroge, and I wanted to try to relocate everyone from the slum, but that’s a huge undertaking so we scaled it back to just start with the kids.”

In January, Minns and Njoroge, whom Minns met while on a trip to teach martial arts to Kenyan youth, were able to purchase the land, which had been seized from a corrupt government official for a discount price of $3,100 per acre, from a local agricultural guild using money raised from platforms like Gofundme.com. Upon hearing about Minns’ vision, the guild donated the 2 acres of the school in addition to reserving 40 acres of land he could purchase at a later date to expand the facility. 

Total costs of construction are estimated at around $25,000. However, Minns was able to secure a donation from entrepreneur Austin Sanders, who also paid for a year of LOV Movement’s initiative to feed the slum’s elderly. The rest of the construction costs will be raised through Gofundme.com.

“Austin knew one of the people who works with LOV Movement and he wanted to help, so he reached out to help us out last year, and I was blown away because I had never met this guy, but he really believed in what I was doing,” Minns said. “I just try to speak to him every month to update him, and I told him about the school, and he was the one person I wasn’t trying to get money from because he’d already given so much, and he told me he wanted to cover half the construction costs.”

Construction of the Mark E. Sanders Early Child Development Program, named in honor of Austin Sanders’ father, is expected to be completed in September, and Minns hopes to open the school between October and January. The facility will consist of a main school building, a living area for the students and staff, a kitchen and an outdoor play area. Initially, Minns estimates that he will be able to support 25 students taken from the worst areas of the slum, but through fundraising and sponsorships, he hopes to help even more children. As children age out of the program, Minns aims to find a local private primary school they can attend while still living at his facility.

Pema Tamang, who lives in Abu Dhabi and met Minns while she was also volunteering in Kenya, is working to build a library for the school. She envisions the library as having murals, a newspaper station, and eventually a computer station, and has begun purchasing and accepting donations for the initial 300 books she aims to bring to the school by the time it opens.

“I was fortunate to grow up with really good libraries, and I think kids should always have a place to go to find a different world,” Tamang said. “A lot of people I have met, including myself, always say they want to do big things to help people, like building a school, but Jordan is the first person I have ever met to actually go and do it.”

Minns said the school will not run on a regimented curriculum but will instead operate on with the Montessori Method. He wants to focus on child development and interactive learning, art and athletics, but his main priority is for the children to learn English. 

“English is the national language but a majority don’t speak it, and instead speak Swahili or tribal languages,” Minns said. “The opportunities available for those brought up speaking Englsh versus those brought up speaking Swahili are like night and day, so that’s going to be our big emphasis there. I want the best teachers who have experience handling kids, because a big problem in Kenya in government schools is that they’re just in the job for the paycheck and don’t even show up to work a lot of the time.”

Minns said he never thought he would build a school and feels that the project coming closer to fruition is surreal. For the next few months, Minns will be on the site to supervise construction, then will travel between California and Kenya to supervise LOV Movement and the school. Eventually, he wants to move the entire youth population into his school, then focus on bringing the elderly as well as the rest of the slum’s population to live on the land.

“A lot of the families in the slum are aware of this project, and they’re really excited for the kids,” Minns said. “If we can eventually buy the full 40 acres, we can start building a new town. Some of these families have been there for three generations, and this is the first generation that won’t grow up in a garbage dump.”

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