Monthly Archives: December 2011

Aspiring journalist Maureen, Form 4, publishes her first article online!

This is a proud moment for Daraja. Not only has Maureen written a beautiful and personal piece about winning the Girl Effect Challenge, but the article has been published online for Ayaka Magazine…Maureen’s first piece! Click here to see the full article and Maureen’s name in the byline!

Here’s an excerpt:

“The morning the Nike Girl Effect Challenge ended, I came out of my exam at 10 a.m. Shouts and screams filled the air and I knew that we had won.

I went to the dining hall where the results were posted. From a distance I saw a huge poster with the words: “We Are The Girl Effect” – and I learned that our school, Daraja Academy, was in second place. I jumped up and screamed and all the other girls did the same. Even though it was tea break, I was too excited to have my tea.

I was happy to win because I know that the dreams of many girls will come true from the support of the Nike Girl Effect. I believe in girls and know that they can change the world; with a little support, they can do a lot.

Being part of the Girl Effect Challenge will make me always dream big. It  is a competition for yearly funding from the Nike Global Giving Project.

My dream is to become a journalist or a tour guide. To achieve this, I will work hard at school, get good grades and get advice from people in the field. I also want to join a university, where I will learn all about how to become a good journalist or tour guide. When I saw how people volunteered and donated money to support girls through the Girl Effect Challenge, it motivated me to work harder. It also made me want to help more people in return, because there are so many who want help but can’t find it.”

Week wrap up

Leadership training over the holidays – Leila and Grace, who previously attended a conference about women’s opportunities in Kenyan politics, are at an East African Self Leadership training in Nairobi. They have spent most of their week in the city, learning from other women and members of GROOTS. Both girls are very active in the Grassroots club on campus, so we’re confident that they’ll have plenty to share with their friends and teachers when they’re back on campus next month.

Grace and Leila


Recovering from the downpour – After weeks of rain, people all across Kenya are getting back on their feet after floods caused damage to livestock, crops, roads and bridges. On campus we were quite lucky, although we’ve been unable to pump river water since the storms. Daraja’s drinking water is boiled rain water, of which we have plenty. But for cleaning and bathing, we rely on water pumped from the river. Peter Rutere, director of maintenance, suspects there was damage to the connection between the generator and pumphouse, which should be repaired this weekend. While most buildings on campus are without running water, staff are fetching water from a borehole on the property.

One of Alex's gabions, standing strong

The rains were the first big test for gabions that volunteer Alex Rodondi built in the summer. The gabions are wire-mesh frames filled with rocks, which act as miniature dams to slow the flow of water and prevent soil erosion during heavy rains. Rutere says they held up very well against the downpours.

Embracing diversity and learning about other cultures

A vision Jenni and Jason Doherty had for the Daraja Academy was to create a “little Kenya” on campus, a population of students representing the country’s many unique cultures. When Kenya’s boundaries were drawn, over 40 different tribes inhabited its land – tribes with different cultural practices, religions and languages – which, at times, has led to tribal conflict. The most recent extreme case of tribal conflict was the election violence in 2007, which left 1,200 dead and displaced over 500,000 people.

Turkana, Kikuyu, Maasai and Somali - just four of the tribes represented at Daraja

To address this, the Daraja administrators and board strive to recruit girls who represent different tribes, races and religions, from all over the country. Between these girls, natural friendships and connections form – they discover different cultures and learn how to embrace and celebrate their diversity.

After three years, there are 24 tribes and four religions represented at Daraja. The girls have learned to incorporate this diversity into life on campus. Most recently, the Grassroots and Drama clubs mastered traditional dances and songs from several Kenyan tribes, combined them, and created a tremendous performance for campus volunteers and visitors. They sold tickets to their show and all proceeds went towards a local women’s group. It was incredible to see the girls work together on a project that demonstrated the beauty of their “little Kenya”.


Below is a poem created by Mesret, Ann W. and Molly, who will be starting their second year of high school next month. They wrote about Daraja, where girls come together from different backgrounds but with the common dream of achieving their goals through education.


What WISH is all about

By Olivia Capra

Two years after my first visit to Daraja, the opportunity came for me to return to the most wonderful group of girls and continue building the school’s WISH program. We describe WISH as a life skills and women’s empowerment class that all students partake in once a week. From my viewpoint, and that of the girls, WISH class is the soul of the education at Daraja.

Practicing confident introductions in WISH class

Why is this? At some point in our lives we forget why volcanoes erupt, what cells are made of, and how an ancient civilization evolved. There is more to education than what one can read in a textbook. It is the mentorship at Daraja that protects the strength and hope in these girls and molds them to become powerful leaders. They come from a society that fosters closed emotions and doesn’t always provide positive messages. But in WISH, they are encouraged to ask open questions for the first time:

“What is safe sex?”
“What is HIV/AIDS?”
“How can I speak confidently to my father when he is always drunk?”
“How can I make peace with a mother who has sent me away?”
“What can I do to instill justice and fairness when my community leaders are corrupt?”

Each school break they go back to their communities and visit women’s groups, churches, and schools, and for a day or a week they become teachers. They teach about community garbage and sewage systems, HIV/AIDS, and how to strengthen women’s voices in the community. They spread their education not just geographically, but across generations and genders. They come back to Daraja and share how excited and curious these groups were to hear new facts and ideas.

Olivia with third-year students Leila and Hadija

There is no stronger testament to the wealth of WISH than meeting Daraja girls in their first year and coming back to visit when they’re in their third. They are completely transformed.

As freshmen, they were guarded and closed up. Being empowered young women, in their minds, meant being stoic, emotionless – and no wonder when examples of leadership or success always portray men.  They were shy and all too conscious of their place as young, uneducated women from poor communities. They didn’t know of careers outside of house help, cooks, and child bearers – they didn’t understand even the beginning of their potential. It took almost five weeks for them to speak about home to me, of their friends and family, to share with me who they really were.

When I came back at the end of their third year, these (very grown up) women ran up to me and talked all at once about what they have been up to. Now they know what goes on in their communities, but they aren’t scared to talk about it. A large group started the Grassroots club, where they meet women leaders from East Africa, attend conferences, and plan proposals and volunteering in their own towns. They created an amazing performance – a variety of tribal dances and songs (reducing a few of us to tears!) – that raised money for the completion of a chicken coop in a local town.

These women have been given a safe place to talk and reflect – and they have utilized it. The many Kenyan teachers involved in WISH have become role models and mentors. Professionals and leaders from around Kenya are coming to Daraja to share their experiences and break down the walls of silence. The students are excited about their futures – there are aspiring nurses, journalists, community business owners, politicians, magistrates, UN workers, doctors, lawyers, researchers, teachers. They aren’t naïve to the challenges – they have back-up plans and they are ready ­– ready to graduate and start a life they hadn’t dreamed of when they first arrived to Daraja.

A country of extremes – flooding in the Daraja area

There may be drought in other parts of Kenya, but in the Daraja area there have been record rains. On Friday morning, the river that flows near the Daraja campus overflowed its banks for the first time since 1997 after the water level raised about 16 feet higher than usual. The bridge that connects the Daraja campus and several other communities with the nearest large town was flooded. Traffic was stopped in both directions for several hours on an especially busy day; Dol-Dol, one of the villages past Daraja, holds its market on Fridays. We also heard about a car that was washed off a bridge near Dol Dol. Everyone on board was rescued.


The water level was about 16 feet higher than usual, trucks headed to a local market were held up for several hours












Unfortunately, the smaller footbridge built this summer to connect the community with the nearest village was washed away. Small family farms were destroyed by the flood, and Daraja’s water pump isn’t working because of the amount of silt stirred up in the river and the pump’s motor is partially covered in water. Since the girls are home for the holidays, the campus water usage is quite low – head of maintenance Peter Rutere says we just have to wait for the water levels to go down before we can start pumping from the river again.


Teacher Joseph, Coach Dorcas, Andy Harley, Mr. Charles, Peter Rutere and Chef Symon check out the situation at the water pump