4 million people are subscribed to my comedy channels on YouTube. It's a staggering number when I think about it. My subscribers are equal to the size of countries such as Ireland or New Zealand. I am humbled knowing that so many people find my comedy videos on YouTube funny and interesting enough to return every week for more. When I made my first YouTube video, I never expected to earn a following the size my audience is today. I also underestimated YouTube's power to connect me with friends and supporters from around the world. Through YouTube, I realized that making others smile through comedy is universal, and it goes both ways. Just as I could have not predicted my success on YouTube, I never imagined that I would one day watch another YouTube video that would begin a relationship on the other side of the world.
One morning during the summer of 2011, I woke up to a flood of messages on Twitter that read "Go Kev go! Go to Kenya!" I was confused, but once I opened up my email I discovered what all the excitement was about. A New York based non-profit organization called The Supply had uploaded a video onto YouTube in which students from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya challenged me to come out to Nairobi to teach their class. This 2-minute video was incredibly moving. The students in Nairobi had been learning English by watching my YouTube videos. Incredible. I accepted the challenge and two months later I was on a plane to Kenya to teach a class of 5th graders in Nairobi.
Needless to say, the trip to Nairobi was a life-changing experience. When I met the students in Nairobi, I was surprised to learn that children living in slums were able to laugh and smile because of the hope that an education brings. The Supply's mission soon came into focus. Their students' sole interest in bettering their education is not rooted in individual success; rather, it is entrenched in the belief that their education could be used to better their community. We often think of charity as directly providing for basic human needs (food, water, shelter), but the children I met are focused on receiving an education through The Supply so that they themselves can provide solutions that the slums desperately need.
The Supply creates and runs secondary schools based on an innovative low-cost school model focusing on localized education, service learning, and financial sustainability. Their motto is that "education is a call to action." The Supply opened my eyes to the overwhelming reality that 1 billion people live in slums today, which is expected to triple by 2050 (essentially 43% of the world's population). Founder Eddo Kim and his team at The Supply, and their eager students are taking on the daunting task of closing that gap.
On the flight back from Nairobi, I realized that I was always destined to help these children. I could not get the images of the students' smiles out of my mind. Back in 2009, I started a YouTube channel called JumbaFund that was set up to donate 100% of the ad revenue it generated from people viewing videos on JumbaFund to charity. I have donated JumbaFund proceeds to various charities through the years, but I never actually met with any of the charities I donated to in person. This would change with The Supply. As soon as I returned to the U.S., I did the first thing I know best - I uploaded videos of my experience in Kenya to YouTube. The videos I posted garnered over 2,000,000 views, which I took as a sign that my subscribers were moved and inspired by my experience. Then it hit me. I realized I could rally my viewers to support The Supply's on-going mission in Nairobi.
I decided to commit 100% of the ad revenue I receive from my JumbaFund charity channel solely to The Supply. Through JumbaFund and a fundraising campaign, my viewers have raised over $50,000 for The Supply, which has been used to construct and now operate the first secondary school in the community of Lenana, Kenya, the area that is home to the students I visited on my first trip to Nairobi. The school was named KevJumba High School in my honor (Thank You!), and I have committed to funding the operational needs of the school. This is acheived by working with The Supply to ensure that the school is providing quality education while becoming sustainable.
Celebrities tend to receive most of the credit when it comes to philanthropy. I am aware that my efforts could be categorized as such, however I feel that the real credit deserves to go to my viewers - without them, it would not be possible for me to support The Supply and KevJumba High School. I feel incredibly blessed that I can use YouTube to provide a platform for the voices of so many children that go unheard. These children deserve a chance. Imagine, with the opportunity to educate themselves, children in the slums around the world could grow up to become doctors, lawyers or teachers - to improve the quality of life of their families and their community. We have all had mentors in our life - people to help guide us and make good decisions. Thanks to my viewers who support my cause and the work on the ground being done by The Supply, we can all play a role in making the difference in the education and lives of these children.