Thanks to Yahoo! employee and long-time Daraja advocate Minoo Ayat, the Yahoo! Employee Foundation has granted the Daraja Academy funds to help get internet on campus. “Once I learned about my company’s foundation, I had to make sure Daraja was in the running for a grant.” We are glad she did! After a two-month application process, the foundation awarded Daraja the grant.
Currently, Daraja Academy’s computer lab consists of 14 laptops. The students take shifts on the computers to practice their computer skills. For many girls, this is their first interaction with a computer.
Internet availability will transform the current computer lab into a place for students to learn how to conduct online research, interact with international students, and master basic web communication tools such as email. All of these skills will be vital for the students to know upon entering university or the workforce. A huge thanks to our Yahoo! employee champion Minoo Ayat!
Hi! I’m Mark. I am one of the volunteers here at Daraja this month.
9am on every Sunday at Daraja is Spiritual Time. Three classrooms become improvised houses of worship—one for Catholics, one for Protestants, and one for Muslims. I remember discussions from almost three years ago in which we wondered how we would accommodate the diverse religious callings of our students. Spiritual Time has become the answer.
I went to the Protestant service because it was the first service I was invited to attend. I plan on going to the Catholic one next week, and the Muslim one the following.
The services are entirely, 100% student run. They pick the hymns, with singing and dancing consuming about 70% of the service, as well as the readings, and even hold an open forum for testimonials.
I picked a seat in the back to stand. I’ve been to an African mass before. I knew to expect the singing, and the dancing, and the intense passion of the worship. I knew I would love it.
But still. This left me breathless.
The music started innocuously enough, with one girl just sort of humming to herself. It soon grew into a frenzy of uniform melodies, with the girls absolutely belting out as loud as their vocal chords permitted, eyes closed praise. On the board, it was written, “Please sing as if you might die the next second. Thank you!”
My jaw has more or less been on the floor during my entire time at Daraja, but most obviously during Spiritual Time. Their unashamed, entirely un-self-consciousness left me enviable. There I was, a privileged white American, a college education and masters degree comfortably under my belt, swaying nervously to the music, and full of envy for impoverished African women who wouldn’t even be at high school if it wasn’t for Daraja. Does suffering afford some special access pass to faith? Because I wanted what they had. I wanted to believe something as much as they believed it, to believe it in my mind and in my heart and in my body and in my soul.
The urban legend goes that the human voice can break glass. As the music swelled to its highest crescendo, the voices broke more than glass. They broke barriers of poverty, hopelessness, drought, chauvinism, and fear.
I am used to seeking silence to find my spirituality. I look for a solitary tree under which I can read or reflect, or some other clichéd location. I like the quiet moments of Catholic mass, and the intimidating, echoed silence of big, empty spaces. Spiritual Time was the antithesis of my spirituality. We packed into the room and girls danced so vigorously that they had to step outside on occasion just to cool down. In truth, they were not girls during Spiritual Time. They weren’t even women. They were sages, ageless and beautiful. I searched their faces as they sang and found joy and suffering in their most pure forms.
I have never felt so in awe. I have never had to fight for so long to hold back tears.
It’s a two-hour service, and the time flew. In the second hour, I stopped analyzing everything because they girls showed me the value of under-analyzing. I’ve said it a hundred times but still struggle to accept it: true faith transcends rationality. It is not exclusive of logic; it instead supercedes it. Their faith was so obviously beyond the limitations imposed by rationality, and as such, was in full bloom. And thankfully, it was contagious. By the end of the service I too had loosened my constraints and was carefree as I belted along to the songs that were easy to long, and followed their dance steps, and greeted their smiles with a smile rather than a nervous smirk.
I had brought my camera to the service but immediately felt ridiculous for doing so. You can’t take pictures of something like that. So please excuse the visual blandness of this post.
If you really need a visual, close your eyes and imagine a miracle. That’s Daraja. Then populate that miracle with other miracles. That’s the teachers, staff, volunteers, and most of all, the students. Then put those miracles into the same room, and turn the lights on, and marvel as they all marvel at how miraculous everything is.
That’s what it looks like.
Hi! I’m Giulia! This is a summary of my first week at Daraja from a volunteer’s perspective.
My husband Mark and I came to Kenya for one reason only. To meet our 77 girls! Our friends Jenni and Jason had a big dream…to start a secondary school in Kenya for girls who otherwise wouldn’t have the funds to attend. We were fortunate to learn about their project at their first-ever fundraiser three and a half years ago. We loved their goal and mission so soon thereafter they asked us to join the Board of Directors. We couldn’t have been happier. It was a long, tough road. At the beginning we only had funds to get us to the end of the month. We had no savings and it was a scary time. Now, we have a beautiful, functioning campus full of smiling girls.
I came here with Mark and my brother Pietro and his best-friend Sam. While we are at the end of our around-the-world trip, they are just at the beginning. They quit their jobs in NYC in February to come to Kenya and travel throughout South-East Asia. They went to culinary school so they are helping out Ruth in the kitchen. From preparing meals, to assessing the nutrition, to working on improving the food budget, we couldn’t of asked for better assistance!
What I love most about Daraja are the hugs. Anytime a girl sees you, she comes over, smiles, and gives you the biggest, warmest hug. On any given day I must get on average about 50 hugs. It is totally AWESOME. I spent my first week at Daraja attending classes with the girls. Oh boy, are they tough. Some of the math problems are super hard! But the girls are so smart and once you explain it to them once, they totally get it. I also was fortunate enough to lead a Business class with the girls and share my career in Marketing and my studies at Georgetown University with them. They were totally fascinated and asked some great questions.
We have the most amazing Volunteer Coordinator. His name is Andy. He’s a super nice guy and great at his job. The girls and volunteers all love him. One day he planned a wonderful Safari trip for all the volunteers to see the local baboons as well as a short visit to a Masai village nearby campus. We took 100’s of pictures and danced with the women in the village and bought some of their beautiful hand-made jewelry. 10% of the proceeds go to women education, how perfect is that?!
This place is magical. I’m so happy to be finally here.
To all our Marin supporters! Dine in or get take out at Bangkok Thai Express TONIGHT. Thanks to the San Rafael High School’s Interact Club, the restaurant has agreed to donate 15% of total sales to the academy. So come on, forgo cooking after this long week and enjoy some Thai food while helping out Daraja!
Update: The address for Bangkok Thai Express is:
857 4th Street
San Rafael, CA 94901
Reporting day is one of the most exciting days of the entire year! It’s the day when the freshmen arrive from all over Kenya to begin their first day of school at Daraja Academy. The post below gave you a glimpse of the new class, but check out the full gallery of pictures on our Facebook Page!
The brand new freshman class arrived on campus last Friday, February 25th, and the day was filled with love and excitement. The number one comment from the students and staff about the new arrivals? “They are so little!” We are so excited to welcome these new students to Daraja Academy. For the next four years, the academy will provide the remarkable students with the foundation they need to get to where they want to be. Let the journey begin…
“Let go of the past and go for the future. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.”
- Henry David Thoreau