Daraja Hosts Community Event in Nanyuki

On Friday, August 2nd, Daraja Academy hosted a community event at The Lily Pond Arts Centre in Nanyuki, Kenya. Daraja administrators, teachers and 4 students from each form, including transition students were in attendance along with community members from Laikipia County.

There were employees of the County government in attendance, representatives from Kenya Women Finance Trust, Mpala Research Centre, and even the Laikipia Minister of Education.

Ruth and Mercy (F1) greeted guests at the door with informational brochures before they entered the event to converse and learn about Daraja with students and staff.

After mingling, guests sat down to watch the two Daraja Films, Girls of Daraja and School of my Dreams. This was followed by a short question and answer period where community members learned more about the school.

Sammy, an Environmental Educational Officer from the Laikipia Wildlife Forum expressed his sincere gratitude for the school. “I am amazed at what is happening at this school and I am looking forward to working with these girls in the world.”

“You will very soon see the fruits of your labor, I appreciate what you are doing,” said James, a community member.

Wilson, a business owner in Nanyuki, shared some wisdom, “If you want to be happy for a few years, plant trees. If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant people. These girls are your plants, you will be so blessed.”

The event was one of immense success and outpouring support. The Minister of Education wrapped up the night:

“Daraja is more than just a school, it is a great idea that has been given flesh. This is just the beginning, and we are very happy to celebrate with you. Each of these girls looks like an individual, but they are all communities within themselves. This is a social investment, Daraja is creating a new generation which will transform our country.”

“Daraja means bridge,” started Principal Victoria, “and we are Daraja.”

Daraja Students Finish Term 2

As July comes to a close, Daraja students are sitting for their end of term exams. Campus is quiet with lots of studying, but girls have spent time looking back on term two during their breaks.

“Bay to Breakers is my favorite part about term two,” Hannah (F2) recounted. Daraja girls ran for Bay to Breakers in Kenya, while supporters ran in San Francisco, California.

Prize Giving Day was also a great accomplishment for term two, where Daraja took home awards for our first graduating class’ performance in the KCSE testing! Trophies were awarded for best performance in the Kiswahili subject, “Highest Percentage of University Intake,” “Best School Overall,” and “Best Private School.”

“I always like term two because we always have many visitors,” reflected Dianah (F2), referring to a high presence of volunteers on campus during the June and July months. Volunteers and visitors uphold a major aspect of Daraja’s educational model, cross-cultural education. These visitors hold workshops and foster strong global relationships that Daraja students cherish.

Daraja attended music festivals and sports tournaments during the course of term two, taking home big titles. The football (soccer) team came out as champions at the local provincial games and participated in the regional tournament against some of the best teams in the country.

After excelling through the district and county levels in a government organized music festival, many Daraja students, including Yvonne (F2), Rosalia (F4), and Claris (F3) excelled at the regional level. All seven of Daraja’s participants ranked among the top ten positions at the regional competition.

We are so proud of our sports and music students for their performances! As students wrap up the term, they look forward to spending two weeks at home with their families over break. “Seeing my family will help me prepare for Term 3,” explained Irene (F3).

Form 4’s learn about Social Justice in WISH Class

This term, form 4’s WISH (Women of Integrity, Strength, and Hope class) curriculum revolved around Social Justice.

Comprised of lessons about power, society, and social change, Form 4’s took useful tools about justice and action away from the term.

Passionate to set out and start creating positive social change now, Form 4’s reflected on the term.

“The lesson about power was my favorite,” explained Lilian, referring to a lesson where students learned about the different types of power, how it is used, and the potential for social change within positions of power in society.

Shamsia and Alice N. cited the lesson on tools for social change as their favorite. During this lesson, girls chose an aspect of society such as education or local government and identified problems in that sector such as corruption. From there, girls broke into groups and identified tools that could be used to create social change.

“I loved learning that media could be used for good, to expose bad things like corruption,” remembered Mercy.

Learning about social change is integral in creating what Daraja calls “women of WISH.” Recently, The Guardian shed some light on the need for women’s empowerment to go along with girls’ education. Daraja’s WISH class, which is once a week for all students, does just that!

To read The Guardian’s article, click here:

Form 4’s are excited not only to change their world after graduation, but to start right away!

Daraja’s Got Talent

On Saturday, July 20th, Daraja girls competed in a Talent Show to take a quick break from their end of term exam studying. Twenty-four acts took the stage and performed skits, sang songs, recited poems, or entertained with dance.

Impressed by the girls’ stellar confidence, volunteers, Transition Program students, and even some administrators watched the girls take the stage. Some acts were comedic, and some just for fun, but many acts boasted the passion that Daraja students have for their education and their cultures.

The “Turkana Dancers” won for the category of best group. Wrapped in blue, they sung and danced in unison, representing the Turkana ethnic group from Northern Kenya. Rosalia performed a poem about women’s empowerment. Some lines from the poem are:

“A girl has eyes, to see beyond the village.

A girl has ability, to carry more than firewood.

A girl has energy, to fetch more than water.

Educate a girl, educate the whole family.

Mathematics is not too poisonous to us.

English is not too foreign to us.

Arts are not too strange to us.

Sciences are not too scary to us.

Educate a girl, educate the whole family.”

“The poem says that women are not too weak to be educated, we are strong,” explained Rosalia.

Other winners included Alice A. and Elizabeth for the Crowd Pleaser category, a dance act by Purity for Best Solo, Bilha and Alice’s poem for Most Creative, and Salome’s dance and comedy act for Most Confident.

Daraja celebrates Malala Day

On October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young activist for girls’ education, survived an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen, in her home country of Pakistan. Her wounds were felt worldwide, including by Daraja students and staff.

Check out what happened last year, when Daraja students were asked what steps they could take to let Malala know she is not alone. The final result of this brainstorming? Take a look.

Since last October, Daraja students have been thinking of, praying for, and asking about Malala, her health, and her fight for women’s rights.

On July 12th, 2013, Malala not only celebrated her 16th birthday, but she also delivered an address to the United Nations, about the importance of global access to education.

Daraja students, in hopes to show their support from afar, signed a poster for Malala, wishing her a happy birthday and expressing messages of support.

“Thank you a lot for supporting girls education. You are amazing! Be blessed,” Jesica, Form 3.

“I am so glad to know your story, we really love you,” Winrose, Form 1.

“Thank you for taking such an amazing action for education. I treasure you a lot,” Juliet, Form 2.

During Malala’s speech on July 12, she declared that her birthday, Malala Day, is not a holiday for her, but a holiday for every woman, boy and girl who have raised their voices to fight for their rights. Malala, and the hundreds of young education activists standing with her during her address, called on all women and girls to use their voice, and to stand up to fight for education. They called on governments to ensure education for each child. They called on all communities to embrace tolerance and reject prejudice.

Malala closed her talk with this quote, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Daraja Students: Peacemakers

On Sunday, July 14th, Alice Nderitu from Kenya’s Institute for Inclusive Security visited Daraja’s campus to give a talk to the girls about Women Peacemakers. Alice has a great deal of experience in peacemaking,

Before she spoke, founder Jason Doherty challenged the girls with two tasks: first, to take time to talk with Alice during her one-day visit, and to get to know her. Second, he challenged all the girls to strive to take on the title of “peacemaker” in some capacity throughout their lives.

Alice started her talk by asking all the girls sitting in the back row to move up and sit in the front row. Peacemakers, like women, she explained, must be proactive and have no fear.

“Peacemaking work,” Alice described, “is defined by courage.”

From there, the girls intently listened to Alice’s talk for upwards of two hours. The engagement of the girls on this topic was staggering; it was clear how important this topic is to every single Daraja girl.

A major take away point from Alice’s talk, that the girls chattered about for hours following, was that the point of peacemaking is not to solve the conflict for two opposing forces, but to help create a climate where the two groups or people can solve the conflict on their own.

She challenged Daraja students to demolish the environments where conflict takes place, by avoiding hate speech between tribes and dismantling stereotypes.

“Step out of ethnicity when possible,” Alice advised, “become a Kenyan.”

After Alice’s talk ended and many questions were asked and answered, some girls continued on with their day, eating lunch and studying. However, many girls took Jason up on his first challenge, and asked Alice questions until she left campus.

Students were so inspired by Alice and her talk, that usual Saturday duties were put off to ask more questions and hear more insights, until everyone waved Alice off during her departure. That evening, girls expressed their hope for Alice’s return to campus.

“I want to go back to my community, and help them find peace,” explained Anastacia, Form 4.

“I really loved having Alice here, I hope she comes back” reported Dianah, Form 2.

Alice’s message was a great way for student’s to see pillar 2, of Daraja’s 4 pillars, embodied in a career. “Embrace differences. Treat all with dignity and respect.”

The Importance of Volunteerism at Daraja

Summer is always busy at Daraja, thanks in large part to the slew of volunteers who come, from around the world, to experience the school. In June, 14 high school students from Woodside Priory School in California arrived at Daraja Academy, where they spent a week volunteering in many different capacities. Volunteerism is important for different reasons – it’s important for the students of Daraja and for the volunteers themselves.

Dianah, a Form 2 who’s built special relationships with volunteers over the past year and a half, explained why she thinks it’s important for people to come volunteer. “Volunteers come here for different reasons,” she explained. “Some come here because they want to see how Daraja is – they’ve heard about it so they’re excited to be here. Some are fundraising for Daraja, and others come during the summer to have fun. It’s important because these are two people from different cultures so us, the Daraja girls, get to interact with volunteers and we get to exchange ideas and become better people, and vice versa.”

Daraja cofounder Jenni Doherty agrees with Dianah. “When we think about the vision of Daraja, it’s the concept of the bridge,” she explained. “If you’re not ready to learn you’re just kind of stagnant, I think. One way that we provide enhanced education to our students is through a volunteer program. I think it’s valuable because of the different perspectives people come from, and the more perspective the girls hear from the more well-rounded they’ll be. It’s not about, ‘I’m here to teach you,’ but, rather, it’s about, ‘I’m here to share my past experiences with you.'”

Bob Bessin, longtime Daraja supporter, former Board president, and Priory teacher and chaperone, is happy to be here alongside students like Dianah. “It’s a global world that we have here,” he said. “I think that part of what every person needs to understand is the similarities and differences are between people and how we can contribute to everyone’s well being. Volunteering allows people to contribute to others and also to learn from other people as well. At Daraja they can do that.  We get a chance to get to know these girls for a week at a greater level. I’ve already seen the level of emotional connection and impact that the Daraja girls have had on our kids. We’ve had some kids who’ve had issues like the Daraja kids have had and they’re able to talk about that – they’re able to talk about some of their common issues, concerns, hopes and dreams, sharing them with people halfway across the world. Teenagers are kind of focused on themselves and this helps to broaden them and see how they can contribute to the world.” The high school students gain just as much as the Daraja girls do – explained Dianah, “My favorite part of having volunteers here is that I become a new person each time I get to learn about someone else – that person is very different from me so I get so excited to learn from that person’s character and behavior.”

Writing Project at Daraja

Kathy Gonzalez is a high school English teacher at Woodside Priory School in California. Since last week, she’s been one of four chaperones accompanying 14 Priory students on their trip to Daraja Academy. All of the volunteers are having exciting experiences; Kathy is doing something especially cool. Since fall 2012, Kathy has been electronically communicating with Daraja, so that she could facilitate a writing project with the Form 2 and 3 girls. By the beginning of May, the Daraja girls had written three rough drafts on three different topics:

1) What is your full name? Who named you, what does it mean, and do you have any nicknames? “The Daraja girls had some hilarious nicknames!” Kathy said.

2) How did you learn about Daraja? What were your first impressions, and what were your fears? “Hearing the stories from the Daraja girls gave the Priory students chills. A couple of them were teared up from hearing the stories,” said Kathy.

3) Write about your family – what are the best, funniest, and most difficult things about your families?

Kathy, the Priory students, and the Daraja Form 2s gathered in class twice this past week, when they split into groups of three and held writing workshops for each other’s pieces. The experience, said Kathy, was “totally awesome!” “There was huge learning about each other’s lives and cultures, and huge excitement to keep the writing exercise going.” Priory is leaving Daraja tomorrow, and they’re sad to go, but the writing project will continue and will be overseen by Dianah and Yvonne (F2) and Euphrasia (F3), all of whom aspire to be writers. Kathy hopes, down the road, that everyone who participated in her workshop will have a chance to publish some of their work, either online or in print.

In addition to the creative writing workshop, Kathy also held a brief poetry workshop over the weekend. You may already know that Naomi, Form 3, is well-versed in poetry, as evidenced by her rap performance at last term’s talent show. But what you might not have known is that Naomi is also an incredible poet. Below is a scanned copy of the poem she wrote. We’re so impressed!





Daraja girls win big at local music festival

Last Thursday and Friday, June 13 and 14, fourteen Daraja students spent the days in Nanyuki town, where they participated in a large, government-run music festival. Dozens of high schools from across the local county of Laikipia gathered to sing songs, recite poetry, and do (traditional Kenyan) dances.


Prior to the festival, the fourteen participants gathered with Daraja teacher Doreen, and as a group they agreed who would proceed to the festival to represent the Academy. Form 3 Claris was one of the participants, and she reported on the two-day event. “We had fifteen performances presented by fifteen girls,” she wrote. “Although they were few, they didn’t lack hope after practicing thoroughly for one week. Among the fifteen, eleven of them would  proceed to the next level” (which will be held in two weeks in a different town).


Claris continued, “Congratulations to everyone who participated in the music festival. You really showed a lot of strength. Music festivals are very important to students. They help people to develop their talents through speaking and acting. Participating also develops the students’ thinking capacity to come up with something influential to other people. Finally, performing helps students to interact with other students from other schools and share views. Personally, I would like to encourage teachers to allow students to participate in music festivals.”


Despite their busy schedule, the Daraja participants had a great time. We’re excited to see how the eleven winners do when they perform at the next leg of the competition!

Daraja screens new film for students

Last Friday evening, every Daraja student gathered to watch, for the first time ever, the newest Daraja film “School of My Dreams” (by Out of The Blue Films, Inc. – check out its trailer here). Before its premier, the girls also watched “Girls of Daraja,” the first movie made about the school years ago by the same company. (You can watch it here.) Everyone but the Form 1s had seen this first film, but it was still fun re-watching it, and helpful as a precursor to the new film.


Jason Doherty, Daraja co-founder, introduced the films by asking the girls, “Do you want to be exceptional? This is a serious question! Sometimes we are afraid to be extraordinary – it would be easier to just be ordinary, right?” Everyone agreed that they wanted to be extraordinary, and that explained Jason, “is why you are all here.” “Yes,” he told them, “you might come from challenging backgrounds. But this movie will allow you all to see that you’re not alone in that – all of your peers have struggled in their past. And in the future your past will be so helpful. When you go to a job interview after University and it’s you, a girl with high grades who has struggled, versus another student with high grades who came from wealth, who do you think they’re going to choose?”

What did the girls think of the films? Mary N. and Jesica, both Form 3s, enjoyed them both. “The movie made me realize that there are so many people who couldn’t be in school if it were not for the sponsoring and blessing we have from Daraja,” explained Mary. “It’s not the aim of the school only to teach about academics but also to make girls become more responsible and also to become important people in their society.”

Watching the movie was important to Jesica, too. It reminded her that “it happened like a miracle to many girls since they could not be able to get the money to take them to school…This way, they could realize their goals and they could be able to change the world. [The movie] also showed me that I’m not the only person who had the problem of not being able to go school; there were actually many girls who did not have the opportunity of going to school.” Mary added, “It also inspired us because we had some girls who were talking about their career goals and through that we realized that there is much that we can do for ourselves and for our country.” “It was an educative movie,” added Jesica. “It encouraged other students to be able to give their views and share with others, and also it was another way of maintaining their speaking abilities and good postures – it showed a lot of grace.” Mary agreed, and liked seeing her friends in the film. “It made me feel good to see my friends in it because I used to believe that there is no time that I can see my friends, self, or relatives in a movie. I concluded that if you appear in a movie you are not more superior than others; what it means is that you’ve accepted yourself as who you are. Through that you can build up your confidence.”