The following essay was written by our friend, Barbara Rick, about Daraja’s very first Graduation Day this past August. The essay was originally published in issue No. 8 for Works and Days Quarterly, an online journal of arts, letters, and craft. Visit their webpage to read the full Autumn issue and see the original version of this essay.
Utambulisho is the Kiswahili word for identity.
Four hours north of Nairobi in kenya, on the outskirts of Nanyuki, 25 girls are taking center stage this morning. The first graduates of Daraja Academy. Daraja means bridge; the Academy is a unique free boarding secondary school where girls are preparing to changing their communities, their country, and the world.
Gifted in academics, leadership, and courage beyond words, these girls are the soul and wonder of Kenya, its future. They are transcending barriers of poverty and gender–creating a new identity for generations of women, men, and families to come.
We were introduced to these girls in 2010, when our friend Deborah Santana first fell in love with this school and its students and brought my cinematographer husband and myself here to help tell their story on film. We three returned to film in 2012, as the school grew and grew.
Our award-winning short films Girls of Daraja and School of my Dreams are the result of this collaboration. We now begin a third chapter of this trilogy, A Bridge in Kenya, a feature documentary following the girls as they take all that they have learned and fan out to change the world.
Here is New York City on a rainy day as I write, there is nothing unusual about droplets tapping on gutters, shadows rippling in shiny puddles below out windowsill on the asphalt. In the kitchen where I sit, there is clean water always available, the ease of electricity. Fire under the kettle on the stove. Comforts. Plenty.
I remember one afternoon in particular on that first magical trip to Daraja.
The usual bowl of blue kenyan sky was blanketed by bruised cotton clouds painted with the promise of rain. Dampness coming. We were setting up our cameras in an airy classroom on a sloping hill. As the girls headed toward us across the campus field, the sky opened. Joy poured. Every splash a miracle, the first rain in a year.
Photo by Barbara Rick.