What’s it like to be a student at Daraja Academy? Sophomore student Maureen, pictured above, provides a glimpse into her life:
Monday, November 22nd
6:00 am: Wake Up!
6:00 am – 7:00 am: Dress in school uniform and do my duties like cleaning my dorm room, which I share with three other students.
7:00 am – 7:30 am: Have breakfast: Uji (traditional Kenyan breakfast porridge), an egg and a banana.
7:30 am – 8:00 am: Assembly. We raise the Kenyan flag and sing the national anthem.
8:00 am – 8:45 am: A lesson for English. We have review because final exams begin Thursday.
8:45 am – 9:30 am: A lesson for Geography where we review lessons about the Earth and the land forming processes.
9:30 am – 10:15 am: A lesson for history where we learn about the consitution of Kenya and democracy. More review.
10:15 am – 10:30 am: Have a short break.
10:30 am – 12:00 pm: A biology lesson where we review past lessons about animals and nature.
12:00 pm – 12:45 pm: Music lesson. We have the first part of our final today. We have to sing a song for the teacher and keep the right keys.
12:45 pm – 1:45 pm: Have lunch that is rice with bean stew.
1:45 pm – 2:30 pm: A chemistry lesson where we review salts, chemicals, and gases.
2:30 pm – 2:13 pm: A Swahili lesson where we read Shayaris (poetry). We read a Shayari about HIV/AIDs and answered questions. Then we review for the final.
3:15 pm – 4:00 pm: A math lesson where we review for the final.
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Listen to speaker Darcy Ogada teach us about vultures (Darcy is a researcher at the nearby Mpala Research Centre and Wildlife Foundation)
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Free time.
6:00 pm – 7: 00 pm: Have dinner of ugali and cabbage.
7:00 pm – 9:30 pm: Study hall. This is where we do homework.
9:30 pm – 10:00 pm: Prepare for bed and lights go off.
Name: Pia Pagh
Hometown: Albertslund, Denmark
How did you get connected to Daraja Academy?
My son works for ActionAid and he recommended Daraja. He said it would be the best place for me. He said “You have to see development in a good way.” Not all of Africa is sad. That is a misconception. He wanted me to come here to see how Kenyans are being positive and working hard to make a change for themselves.
What have you been working on?
I’ve been working a lot in the kitchen. I have done some Geography lessons. I have been in the English classes and have worked with Teacher Catherine, one of Daraja’s English teachers. She asks me for teaching ideas based on my experience. I go home and create some programs and then we implement them. I’ve gotten to know the families on campus. I went to the college graduation of Teacher Catherine’s mother.
What made you decide to sponsor a student?
If you really want to support change in Africa, you have to do it through intelligence. Change comes from higher education. If you don’t have education, you don’t know how to stand up for your rights, you don’t even know how to create change.
Also, I have seen how the school is not just for the girls but how they support a whole area. I talked to Consolata (Daraja cook) and she told me she worked here during the Baraka days. When the Baraka school closed down, everyone was unemployed…until it was reopened as Daraja Academy. That’s how Conso was able to begin working again. So the school is not just for the girls, but for the whole community. The operation of this school affects so many people- from the staff who count on Daraja for employment to the people in the market that sell goods to the school. This school allows Ruth (Daraja’s head cook) to send her 5-year-old daughter to school.
What have you learned since being at the school?
I have learned that it’s not about having a lot of stuff that makes you happy. You see that education is the most important. You realize what you think in Denmark is important, like redoing a bathroom, is actually not so important once you come here.
You are fundraising to sponsor a student. How will you fundraise?
I am going home and sending a letter to my family and friends describing the school. I will tell them about my experience. I will show them the website and I will tell them it is very important. I’m going to create a fund and ask everyone to donate to it. Because being here, I know exactly where the money is going. I see how hard every single person here works for this school.
What has been your favorite Daraja moment?
I have two I can think of right now. Yesterday evening at 9pm in the kitchen, Consolata had finished working and was reading the newspaper. She was reading an article and she said “Pia, come look at this. Wouldn’t’ it be good for WISH class”. It was an advice column where a young girl was asking the columnist how to take care of herself because her mom hadn’t taught her. She was asking questions about her body, how to shave her underarms, etc. Basic things a girl should know. Then, I took the article and gave it to WISH teacher Victoria.
It showed me it’s not only the girls at Daraja that are benefiting from this great project. Everyone believes in it and everyone is helping each other. Everyone is contributing in so many ways- whether you work in the kitchen or the garden- you are always thinking about the purpose of this school which is to help these girls. No one is telling people what to do, they are all here for the same reason. That’s how this project works.
Another great moment was after the scavenger hunt I helped create. We had written questions on cards and hid them all over the school. There were questions about different subjects like Biology and Geography. There were also puzzles and word games. After the game ended, I saw a few of the girls had found some left over cards. Instead of just throwing the cards away, the students were trying to solve it even though the game was over. It was a very cool moment.
The Fun Stuff:
Favorite movie: Fried Green Tomatoes
Favorite book: Pelle the Conquerer by Martin Anders Nexos
What was your favorite musical group when you were in junior high? Johnny Cash. I was a little bit crazy.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? I would love to go to Bali for the beaches.
You’re about to make your way down the green mile, what do you have as your last meal? Sushi.
Who is the person you respect the most and why? My husband and my sons. My husband believes so much in me and always encourages me to do things I don’t think I can do. My sons because they take responsibility for the world, and not only themselves. (Both of Pia’s sons work in international development.)
What do you think is the secret to a good life? Thinking positively. There are two kinds of people: those that say the cup is half full and those that say it is half empty. I always say it is half full.
The passage below is another personal story written during volunteer Sarah Montgomery’s writing classes this past summer. The author is one of Daraja Academy’s freshman.
My heart is pounding against my little chest as I remember my past. It has been three years now since my sweet mom left my siblings and me. It seemed hard to live my life without her. I was afraid that I would not go further in my studies since my older sister was far from us. There was nobody’s shoulder to cry on during that hard period. To me it was unusual to live without even a single parent. I felt discouraged when I heard some of my friends discussing how their parents were and how they bring stuff whenever they go for a picnic or an outing. It was hard for me to reserve the pain and the problems I encountered. I stayed by myself but I encouraged myself to face things no matter what they were.
I woke up early in the morning and prepared myself and my little brother for school. We would sometimes go without taking our breakfast whenever it was not there. Since we attended a public school, everyone was supposed to bring his/her lunch. The lunch hour we stayed hungry in the sun watching other pupils as they swallowed their food and drinks. The only thing we had was a bottle of water. We would drink and proceed to class.
The amazing thing was that in class I was ever attentive while other pupils dozed due to their fullness. In the evening, when the classes were over I would rush home to do the chores. I would always finish the chores so late in the night that sometimes I would not do my homework. I believe in God and prayed hard to relieve my burden. After a few months I started performing well in my studies. This also happened to my brother as well. The other pupils now started realizing that although we were orphans, we could make it. We made friends and the loneliness tended to disappear. My teachers encouraged me to be even more hardworking than I was. After a few weeks I recognized that I was not alone. Not only with my friends, but many people wanted to be associated with me.
Once I did not attend school for about three days due to more work that I had to do at home. When I went to school one of the teachers who was a young lady called me aside and asked me what had happened to me and why I did not attend school. Since I was unfamiliar with talking to older people, I did not utter any word to her. She was so worried that it may be a bad thing that had happened to me since I did not respond. She did not stop approaching me until one day she told me about her story and how she lived. I found that she had passed difficulties even worse than mine. The worst thing is that her mom and father had passed away when she was in high school and she had to drop out of school due to lack of money and also her brother dropped out of university due to the same problem. She stayed home for about two years when a good samaritan came to her and she was taken back to school and that’s when she was able to achieve her goals of being a teacher as well as a counselor. The important thing I learned from her is that everybody has problem and has to pass through so many. And also she inspired me to work hard so as to achieve my goals.
I now do not care about my past, but I am eager to see my future life. I will work hard to achieve this for God and for Daraja. I believe that I will do so.
The Spokes, UC Davis’s all female A Capella group, have committed to raising funds and awareness for the Daraja girls. They will be doing various events throughout the year to support the school and their very first event is on November 21st in Davis. Check out the details below:
WHEN: November 21st, 5 PM – 10PM
WHERE: Pinkberry at 500 1st Street in Davis, CA
WHY: Let Pinkberry know you are with Spokes and Daraja Academy so that 20% of your purchase go straight to the academy.
Dear Daraja Family,
Founders Jason and Jenni Doherty returned to the United States this week to work with the board of directors and staff specifically to raise awareness for the school and raise money for next year’s budget. For those of us that have met Jason and Jenni, it is easy to see that they are some of the hardest working people around. There isn’t a minute when they don’t eat, breathe and sleep Daraja.
But as we all know, it takes more than just two people to spread the word and raise enough funding to run a growing school…it takes a whole family.
We are asking you- our Daraja family member- to fundraise from your homes this holiday season. Set up a fundraising page, and send an email to your friends and family. Tell them about Daraja Academy and why this school has special meaning to you. Give them the link to your fundraising page. People are willing to listen now more than ever. They would be willing to help if they learned about these girls, especially if they heard it from you.
We have the power to help Jason and Jenni spread the word and raise enough money to keep this school growing. It simply requires a few minutes of our time.
We are a family, we are a team, and we are connected by this one special cause. Let’s work together this holiday season to raise money for the girls of Daraja. Send that email today. Next year, there will be 78 girls grateful for the rest of their lives that you did.
Why should I fundraise as opposed to donate?
We would certainly love for you to donate to Daraja this holiday season. But imagine how much more powerful it will be if you not only donated, but so did your family, friends and co-workers. You would not only raise more money for the organization, but more people will learn about the girls. The stories of these girls will spread to more and more people around the world.
Where do I start?
You can create an online fundraising page here using a super easy and fun fundraising tool called Crowdrise. Click here to create your page (they claim it only takes a minute to set it up!)
How do I get people to donate?
Luckily, Crowdrise has set up 10 great strategies on how to begin fundraising once you have your page set up.
The administration had the good fortune yesterday of visiting Mitumba Art, an arts and crafts company located in Nanyuki. Mitumba is a Swahili word that refers to packages of used clothing. The store takes old, donated clothing and transforms those into creative, fun products. The most interesting part of their model is their mission. Their aim is “to provide gainful employment to the local youth who otherwise would struggle to find suitable employment.” The organization trains and employs artists and crafts people from the community.
The owner of the store, Sonja Parkinson, has lived in Kenya for over 15 years and always had a passion for art. She noticed the talent of many Kenyans around her, as well as the difficulty to find an outlet for their art and make money at the same time.
As a result, she decided to combine her skills as a craftsperson, love for the arts and desire to encourage art within youth to open a shop. She employed Kenyan youth from the area who didn’t have other employment opportunities. Mitumba currently employs 16 artists due to the high demand for their products. The company spends little on marketing. Most of her success is due to word-of-mouth. The income raised allows Sonja to send her staff to further education. She is presently supporting one of her early staff members through a graphic design degree
The picture below shows sample cushions created by staff. The art is hand-drawn and can be found on various products. To see the full collection of products, click here.
The spirt of the store was extremely positive and the employees seemed to be enjoying their work. It looked like a fantastic alternative to the unemployment that many of Nanyuki’s youth face.
One of the employees had an inspirational poster on her wall that kept her motivated. We thought we would share it with our Daraja family for a little inspiration as we head into the weekend:
Admitting your weakness is the way to humbling.
Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less.
Sometimes your biggest problem is your biggest help.
Do all good you can, by all means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can.
To all people you can, as long as you ever can.
That is greatness.