Monthly Archives: May 2011

Speaking with elders to appreciate Kenya’s history

“This is something that may change your attitude about history,” says Teacher Victoria to the Form 2 class.

 Before the girls’ most recent break in April, they were given an assignment to interview some of the elders in their communities. Their goal was to learn about that what had happened in that person’s life—their challenges and their joys—in order to produce an oral history of their community.

They were prepared with lessons on effective interview techniques, and practice interviews with their peers before going out into their communities.

Last week, the girls came together to talk about this assignment, which was designed by the University of San Diego Learning and Teaching Faculty.  They gathered in the lounge, wedged five or six to a sofa, with teachers Victoria and Carol and volunteer Maria, who is helping implement the project. As it was outside of class time, some girls had changed out of their uniforms into warmer clothes for the evening; others stayed in their uniforms but loosened their ties.

Several of the girls said that they were unsure about the assignment when they first heard about it. But once they got out there and started talking to the people in their communities, the girls confessed that this had become one of their favourite assignments.

In an hour and a half, only six girls were able to share what they had learned over their breaks—the stories they shared were at times hilarious, haunting or heart-breaking. Their classmates listened intently, with a few much-needed breaks for fits of giggles. Some of the girls sat with an arm draped across a neighbour’s shoulder or played with a friend’s hair while listening to the presenter.

There were stories of escape, persecution, rape, marriage, children, and education; and opinions on the role of women in society, circumcision, and tribal differences.

The girls will continue working together to share these stories before collaborating them into a historical document that can be shared with their communities, future Daraja students and visitors, as well as people all over the world.

Setting short-term goals to meet long-term dreams – WISH

Last week, the Form 2 students, who will be Daraja’s second graduating class in 2013, were asked to consider short-term goals they can set for themselves that will lead to one long-term goal by the time they graduate. In their previous lesson, the girls were taught that goal-making is SMART:


Teacher Victoria asked the girls to close their eyes and imagine themselves as a village of one. When asked how many people they saw, the girls answered three: the student, the social and the spiritual aspects of their lives. “What do you want to achieve in 2 years?” asked Victoria. “You can get that with the help of your short-term goals.”

The girls sat down individually to decide on two short-term goals for each aspect of their lives.

Academically, Alice A. said she is aiming to “join in different activities so I can know my talent.” Susan said she will “make sure to listen to pieces of advice from my teachers and colleagues” as one of her social goals. And Teddy plans to “acquire wisdom from the aged in my community” to help develop her spiritual side.

The girls sketched drawings of how they would like to see themselves when they graduate. Some of the sketches that were shared showed a girl being lifted up by rows of people; the map of Kenya cheering and saying, “Great work!”; and drawing of a woman in a beautiful dress holding several certificates.

After a few of the girls had shared their goals, Victoria told a story about one of her friends who reached her long-term goals only to realize that she was not passionate about what she had chosen to pursue. She told the students that sometimes we may not reach our goals, or that our goals may change in time, and that’s okay. “A WISH lady will not despair. She’s a woman who can try again.”

This week, the girls talked about ethics and what it means to be an ethical woman. Carol taught the students that ethics are “moral principles that influence your behavior.”

Some of the characteristics of an ethical woman the Form 2 students came up with are: trustworthy, faithful, honest, respectful, self-controlled and mindful. As for an unethical woman: indifferent, unkind, undisciplined, arrogant, selfish and tough-headed.

All the girls in the class agreed that they are ethical women. When Carol asked about the importance of having ethics in society, Elizabeth said it’s important to have ethics because “you will get people’s respect.” Margaret agreed, saying ethics will “help you avoid regrets in your future.”

To finish the lesson, Carol asked how being a student at Daraja and attending WISH classes has instilled new ethics in the girls. Joyce said she has learned more about respecting others and Gitwa told the class that she has learned to embrace the differences in people.

Daraja student Catherine and B2B winner Lineth Chepkurui exchange letters

As soon as professional runner and reigning Bay to Breakers champion Lineth Chepkurui agreed to be part of the Daraja Race for 77, there was one thing she wanted to do right away: Write a letter to her partner Catherine. Catherine is an 11th grade student at Daraja Academy who has excelled in academics and athletics since receiving her four year scholarship in 2009. She recently competed in Kenya’s national athletic tournament and currently holds the position as a Daraja Academy prefect given her exemplary behavior as a student. During the Daraja Lap-a-thon, Catherine ran extra laps to motivate the students that were struggling…a true Daraja girl.

Despite Lineth’s busy schedule traveling around the world, she wrote a letter to Catherine in just a few days. Both Lineth and Catherine have agreed to have their initial letters to one another. See the beginnings of a special friendship below…



Dear Cate,

My name is Lineth Chepkurui from Kenya Bomet District. Am an athlete working with the Kenya Air Force. I came to know you through your sponsors: we met at USA in a race called Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, I was the defending Champion and your Sponsors were racing too to raise money for Daraja Academy students. I too was once a student and being a student is quite challenging especially in our country and some other countries where there is poverty.

Cate, my encouragement to you is that one thing in life for one to be a successful student, is being DISCIPLINED. Our motto in high school was “Self discipline is the key to success” which is very true with my experience. God has opened the first gate for you, Cate. I was a talented athlete when I was in high school but due to lack of exposure I could not go far. You are an athlete too so make use of you talent wisely, it will take you far. In school I used to like sports, mostly athletics but my school used to value academics so I had too little time for sports. I could not miss games lessons and I could do well in class too. Overall in academics, my aim was to go up to degree level in medical field of studies, but I lacked school fees.

After school I had to think otherwise for life to continue, because I came from a family of five children, brought up by single parent ‘mum’ and life was not easy because we were all in school. Without wasting time I started training as an athlete and God helped me to this far, I went through hardship – “long story” – but I thank God for coming this far in life, successfully.

I didn’t forget my family, I had to sacrifice the little amount of money that I earned from running, in order to educate my brother who joined Baraton University. He graduated last year with a degree in Literature and now he is Pursuing a masters degree at Maseno University. I stabilize the rest of the family to a better living standards, because mum had exhausted all the resources to pay our school fees.

Cate, it doesn’t matter the situation you are now, thank God he has open the first gate for you and he will continue to open the rest and one day one time you will bring light to your family and the community. Pray God, be a good girl, let discipline take the lead and you will be successful. Am happy to know you as my little sister, as well as your sponsors. I hope and believe that some day I’ll see you face to face.

Thank you, Cate, and to your sponsors too for letting me know you and for their good work at Daraja Academy. I wish you and your fellow students a successful and a happy life.



Dear Lineth,

Hello, how are you? I am fine. I was glad and overwhelmed when I received your letter.

I am from a family of six children, the second born. My background story is quite painful to tell, but since I am a woman of strength, integrity and hope I am not ashamed to share my past with you. I was brought up in family where it was hard to meet the basic needs. Dad was the only one working as a driver and his salary was little.

In 2000, I joined primary school near our village, a thirty-minute walk from our home. Studying was quite hard because back at home there is no paraffin, so I would go to school early or to stay back at school so that I could finish it. But this was still tough because I always had to go home in order to fetch water.

One of the hardest times I had in primary was in class eight. I was in a class of 21 boys and five girls. I was stressed not knowing where I would be after school. I wished I had a sponsor just like my fellow pupils. But my imagination was in vain. But one thing that really inspired me was the effort that my parents were giving me.

In 2008, I did my K-C-P-E exam and I managed to be among the top three in my class. Two boys were ahead. I was happy celebrating my success with my family as well as sad, because I still didn’t have any idea where I would be. Early 2009, I heard the former Baraka school had become a girls secondary school for girls who cannot afford it. I was so happy that I quickly applied for a place as a Form One student. To my surprise I was among the students. Surely until today I don’t know how to express how happy my family was, personally I cried. And I knew that God had answered my prayers. And here today I am working, hoping to see the light and change of my family.

Three years are about to end being in high school and you have said that being a student is quite challenging I agree with you dear. Failing examination is one of my biggest challenges in school especially when I have studied for the subject, it is painful to see my effort in vain.

Here at school I love sports from the bottom of my heart. It has been one of my favorite things since I was in primary school. I love football, volleyball and athletics. On May 11th, I was at provincial level in a place called Iten and I managed to be position four in long jump and now I am preparing for the ball games.

I am one of the LUCKIEST LADIES to have people like you and my sponsors in my life. You have really changed my life, the way I see things through your support. One of the favorite quotes that has helped me get through life is that MANY OF THE LIFES FAILURES ARE THOSE PEOPLE WHO DID NOT REALIZE HOW CLOSE THEY WERE TO SUCCESS WHEN THEY GIVE UP.

Much gratitude to you Lineth, through your letter you have acted as a role model to me. I hope to see you face to face since I have much to share with you.

Daraja, as the name suggests, means been a bridge. It is a bridge for me to know people like you who are amazing.

Much greeting.
Loving & Smiling,

Appreciating Elders in Our Communities – WISH


Daraja’s most senior class spent time in their WISH lesson last week talking about our responsibility to some of the most important people in our lives – our older family members and the elderly in our communities. WISH – Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope – is a class that helps the students gain a stronger overall view of their responsibilities as educated women to their families and communities. “We are WISH ladies,” said Victoria, one of Daraja’s teachers. “We want to focus on the elderly because they are very important people in our society.”

The students gave examples of what makes the elderly population more vulnerable, including health issues and stress, while also discussing the importance of the older generations in their lives. Victoria encouraged the girls to take an active role in the lives of the elderly in their families and communities. “That’s the way you’re going to tell God to bless us when we are that age,” she said.

Here are some of the Form 3 girls’ suggestions of how they can help take care of the elderly:

“By being near them when they are lonely.” – Faith

“Respect them, understand them, and show them love.” – Mary K.

In Kenya, grandmothers (and older women in the community) are called Shush. At the end of the lesson, Victoria gave the Form 3 students an assignment – “Go home and tell your Shush: ‘Shush, if you’re this beautiful today, how beautiful were you when you were a girl?’” She explained that just a small amount of positive attention will go a long way in Shush’s life and make her happy. “She will tell you, ‘You should’ve seen me when I was young… that’s when I met your grandfather!’” The girls, sitting shoulder to shoulder in the classroom, burst out laughing.

Victoria encouraged the girls to take care of their family members now, and when they are working and earning an income. But, she warned, “There is a difference between your money giving Shush that care and you giving her that care.” The girls agreed that it was important to do that work themselves.

This week, the Form 3 students talked about common injuries around the house – scalds, burns and cuts – how to prevent them and how to treat them. Some of the girls’ suggestions for prevention were to keep children away from hot objects, turn off lamps when not in use, keep sharp objects out of children’s reach and to dispose of broken glass properly.

Teacher Carol emphasized the importance of this topic by reminding the girls that “One day something might happen to your child or to your Shush. As a WISH woman, what will you do to manage?” The girls demonstrated how to handle small or severe burns, and shallow and deep wounds.

Jacinta, Daraja’s nurse, was the last to speak, giving the girls more advice on using direct pressure on cuts, using cold water or ice on burns, and how to handle a chemical burn or chemical inhalation in the lab.

Daraja on top at the district Music and Poetry Festival

The Daraja girls proved themselves a force to be reckoned with in public speaking and poetry recital last weekend at the district Music and Poetry Festival. Out of 11 participants, 10 will carry on to the regional competition to compete against students from Laikipia Central, East, North and West.

The most outstanding effort of the day came from Alice N. from Form 2. Not only did she place first for her recital of a poem in English, she entered the Form 4 competition against students two years her academic senior.

Alice N. came first in the Form 4 competition; she's a Form 2 student

Several other Daraja girls came first in their categories – in Form 1, Irene N. placed first in English public speaking; in Form 2, Teddy took the top position for an English poem recital; in Form 3, Cate led the pack in Swahili public speaking, and Betty took first place for English poem recital.

Four students competed and placed in Swahili poetry recital, or Shairi. Jessica in Form 1 came in third place; Form 2’s Rosalia placed second; and in Form 3, Emily and Monicah placed second and third, respectively.

Two other Form 1 girls competed in public speaking, Mary N. came second in the Swahili competition and Euphrasia came fourth in the English contest.

Before handing out certificates to the girls at assembly on Monday morning, Peter Wathitu, director of operations, said to them, “The other schools get worried when they see that Daraja is competing, because you always go out and do your best!”

On June 3, the 10 girls who are proceeding will compete against students from across the region at Nanyuki Social Hall.

Daraja Academy Lap-a-Thon Empowers Students to Fundraise for Themselves

After taking shelter from a welcome afternoon rainstorm, the Daraja girls—wearing their new Bay to Breakers t-shirts—burst out from the starting line with smiles and cheers for the first ever Daraja Lap-A-Thon on Sunday afternoon.

The girls were pumped up from the beginning with news that Kenyan runner and winner of last year’s Bay to Breakers run, Lineth Chepkurui, was participating in this year’s race for them and Daraja Academy. (Check out the video!)

They ran 28 laps of a 400-metre track with support from each other, their teachers, and Daraja staff and volunteers on campus. They were further encouraged knowing how many more supporters around the world were cheering them on!

The girls were strong from the start, with few showing fatigue until about halfway through the race. At around the same time some of the girls started kicking their sneakers off to the side of the track, more comfortable running barefoot than with ‘heavy’ shoes. As the going got more difficult, runners held hands around the circuit, splitting up only to get their race cards punched before quickly regrouping.

When the girls completed their 28th and final lap, there were cheers, hugs and congratulations all around. First to cross the line was Form 2 student Lisayo, followed closely by Irene W. from Form 1. Another Form 1 student, Lillian, finished third.

This event was extremely special for them because it gave the students a chance to raise money for the first time. It was very empowering for the girls and it is an important aspect that we hope to continue to implement in the future. Thank you to the donors from around the world that helped make history at the first ever Daraja Lap-a-thon!

2011 Daraja Lap-a-thon Photo Album

Video: A Glimpse of the Race in Kenya

Race for 77 Bay to Breakers team raises $53,000 for the Daraja girls and teammate Lineth Chepkurui wins Bay to Breakers for the third-straight year!

Last Sunday at 7 a.m., Lineth Chepkurui and the rest of the elite runners started the 7.46 Bay to Breakers race. A mere 39 minutes 12 seconds later,  Lineth crossed the finish line and earned her third-straight Bay to Breakers win!  As soon as Lineth won, she pinned the badge of her partner, Daraja Academy 11th grader Catherine Epur, on her Nike jacket to remind reporters who she was running for.

“She just got it right away,” explained co-founder Jason Doherty who was by her side at the finish line. “She comes from a family of education. Her mother is a headmaster. Lineth understands how important and special Daraja is. She fit right into the Daraja family.”

Lineth finished the race before the rest of the Race for 77 team even started!  The other runners were scheduled to run at 8:15 a.m. With reports of rain and  hail, the team was expecting the worse. After an initial episode of rain, however, the rest of the day was a sunny and cool temperature that was perfect for the race.

“I had such a great time! People at the race would look at my badge and ask, ‘Who’s Bennie?!,’ explained Race for 77 team member Ashley Trujillo who was partnered with Daraja student Bennie. “It was the perfect moment to quickly spread the message about Daraja!”

Seven miles into the course, the designated Daraja cheerleaders set up shop with water, snacks and posters for the team. The cheerleaders helped give Daraja runners that extra boost of energy to make it to the finish lane!

The day held true to the typical Bay to Breakers tradition of crazy costumes and nudists, but race organizer Zazzle did a great job at keeping it in control. After the race, the team called Kenya to see how the Lap-a-thon went (see picture below). It turned out that ALL the girls ran the entire 28 laps! Stay tuned for an update on the campus Race for 77 events straight from Kenya.

A big, fat thanks to all the Race for 77 team members in the Bay Area and abroad that made this happen. You helped raise more than $53,000- this is almost enough to finance a whole class of girls going to school. You guys are amazing and you are making a difference in this world.

Show me more race day photos!

Check out the local coverage

Runner helps raise funds for African school founded by San Rafael residents, Marin Independant Journal (Marin IJ)

B2B Winner Runs to Benefit Kenyan Girls’ School , CBS TV. Click “Local”

Dogged determination marks 100th Bay to Breakers run, San Jose Mercury News

2010 Race Winner and Other Bay Area Supporters Run for Kenyan Girls Education in this year’s 100th Bay to Breakers Race, San Francisco Sentinel

KGO, 48:40



Stay tuned for updates on how the Lap-a-thon went in Kenya!